Where do oats come from?
It’s no surprise that oatcakes are made from oats but you might not know how oats grow in the first place, or how we turn the raw produce into an ingredient for our different oaty products. So, where do oats come from? Let’s find out!
The oat plant
Fittingly, oat plants (Avena Sativa) grow best in areas with a temperate climate, and like us Scots, they’re very resistant to the rainfall and cooler summer temperatures of Northern Europe. In fact, they thrive in areas with wetter summers, and perhaps due to this, the oat plant became a staple of the Scottish diet around the 13th century and grew to be one of the country’s main sources of grain for both the population and the livestock. And while some might turn their noses up these days at sharing a food source with farm animals, oats were considered a valuable commodity to early modern Scots, who used this hardy, multi-purpose grain for everything from currency to wages, dowries and even as a source of bedding (not to mention dinner)!
The oat flower is a common sight in Scottish fields year-round. A particularly popular crop in the Borders, we source most of our oats from Hogarth’s oat mill near Kelso, who in turn source the raw grain from farms in the Scottish Borders. We think these are some of the best oats around, as they’re grown locally, and in the perfect climate with all that southern Scottish rain. We’ve been getting our oats from Hogarth since 1978, so they really know their stuff when it comes to turning the raw material into expertly cut and ground oats. Ensuring that there are no stray husks or remnants of the actual oat plant is a key part of the milling process, and once this is done, only pure oats remain.
Using oats in recipes
Once we receive these milled oats, it’s time to start preparing our oaty products. Our team has been using the same mixing methods for over 40 years – so the texture and taste of the traditional Scottish oatcake is preserved in our recipes. In fact, the way we eat oats has differed very little throughout the centuries; while the Scottish people might no longer use it as currency, did you know that traces of oat porridge have been found amongst the remains of our ancestors from over 5,000 years ago? We think that’s testament to how truly tasty a good helping of oats can be, and it’s part of the reason why we love to experiment with adding different additional ingredients – from cheese to chocolate – to keep oats and oatcakes an important part of Scottish snacking habits.
So there you have it; from the simple oat plant growing in the fields to the crisp oatcake fresh from the oven, the mystery of where oats come from (and how we turn them into tasty snacks) has hopefully been solved! If you’re still curious, why not check out our infographic on Scottish Oats from Field to Plate?