Stone ground flour is considered by many people to be more nutritious and wholesom than other flours.
In stone-grinding, the wheat is ground slowly between two stones. All other commercial flours, however, are ground with high-speed steel rollers. The heat generated by these steel rollers strips destroys many of the vitamins and enzymes in the wheat. The stones do not generate this heat, preserving the vitamins.
It’s not as simple as that, however. The nutrients lost in steel-roller ground flours have to be restored by producers as a legal requirement in Canada, the UK and the US, making the nutritional value the same.
And, stone-ground wheat had an effect on our ancestor’s teeth: their enamel was so worn away by eating it that early in their lives they developed life-long dental pain.
Consumers should realize as well that there is no legal definition of the term “stone ground.” It is largely a marketing term.
“Most U.S. flour sold as stone ground probably never saw a piece of granite. Stone ground can mean anything from wheat berries first cracked on stone mills and then ground to flour on rollers, to finished flour passed over a stone after it’s been ground, ‘or it could mean that it’s just a nice name,’ says Jeff Gwirtz, the director of technical services of the International Association of Operative Millers. ‘It’s more a conceptual, warm, touchy crunchy feel,’ he says.”1
Egyptian households ground their grains in a stone mortar, then sieved them. Even with the sieving, though, mortar dust in the flour and then in their bread wore their teeth down and caused dental pain for them. The worn down teeth are still visible today in mummies.
Literature & Lore
Despite our modern romantic images, in many cultures and places “miller” was a byword for “dishonesty” or “thief”. In Poland, there are still legends and folk tales of millers in purgatory doing penance for cheating people by short-changing or adulterating their flour.
There were also many English proverbs about millers. “Safe as a thief in a mill” meant that with the miller being a thief himself, a thief would find a safe haven there. “Many a miller, many a thief” speaks for itself.
In Essex, England, a churchyard tombstone for a miller named Strange still reads: “Here lies an honest miller, and that is Strange”.
And, last but not least, we have “The Millers Tale” by Geoffrey Chaucer, probably written between 1392 – 1395, in which the Miller exposes himself as vulgar and depraved. Chaucer describes him:
“He was a janglere and a goliardeys —
And that was moost of synne and harlotries.
Wel koude he stelen corn and tollen thries;
And yet he hadde a thombe of golde, pardee.
A whit cote and a blew hood wered he.”
Davis, Robert. The Stone Cold Truth About Stone Ground Floor. USA Today. 2006. Retrieved December 2009 from http://www.measuresofsuccess.com/News+and+Press+Releases/Latest+News/663.aspx ↩