WARNING: An unexpected event during our Gluten-Free Road Trip caused this post to be almost a month in the writing. The reason will become very clear at the end of this post. Just beware, the following might change your gluten-free life forever.
Thanks for stopping by.We pointed the Subaru west and headed along the interstate toward the next stop on our Gluten-Free Road Trip. Just outside Bozeman is the tiny town of Belgrade, Montana whose claim to fame is probably the fact that Gallatin Field, Bozeman's International Airport is located here. So-called "International Airport" because of some random flights to and from Canada.
Seriously. It's a compelling story. Need to take a potty break? Or go out for popcorn? Do it now...
I was first introduced to the these oats a few years back when a story about them and their gluten-free flours and mixes appeared in a local Montana newspaper. The story reported on this local, totally gluten-free mill that grows, harvests, transports and mills all of their own products. Let me say that again: Gluten-free flours, grown, harvested and milled in a designated gluten-free mill ...which is just a few miles from the gluten-free field- now that's special. They call it "farm to fork". I made a mental note to stop by and check out their gluten-free products before returning to LA. But I never got around to it. The following summer I met Dean's son, grower/owner, Rob Miller at a local farmer's market in Manhattan, Montana. Rob was selling the GF Naked flours and bread mixes. Then, back in LA, I met them again! This time, growers Larry and Dean had driven 18 hours straight through from Montana to LA to share a booth at the Celiac Disease Foundation Educational Conference. Even as we were all bombarded by the hordes of gluten-free vendors, no one could resist the samples of the Processor's pumpkin (spice) muffins and Pizzelles. I think they ran out just before Dr. Fasano, our key-note speaker took the stage. Then, earlier this summer, I was in Billings for the Montana Celiac Society Conference. I dedicated a blog post to it here: http://www.notevenacrumb.com/2011/07/going-gf-in-wheat-country-takes-a-detour-with-dr-alessio-fasano.html#tp Once again, Dean and Larry showed up with a delicious sample selection of their gluten-free product line. Is the universe trying to tell me something? I just can't seem to get away from these guys.
Marketed mostly in Montana, the world has yet to discover the GF Naked Oat, yet I seem to be running into these guys everywhere I go. Even in California. So, of course it's obvious that they would be included on our Gluten-Free Road Trip.
Montana's GF Naked Oat Folks come is a variety of sizes, shapes and ages. A stand-out commonality among them is their joy. A few moments in their presence confirms that these guys simply love what they do. From the moment I met Dean Miller (appropriately named - as he keeps the mill...milling), Head of Food Research (and a Celiac) Larry Neville, and production manager Rob Miller I thought they could all be brothers from another mother. Sporting what can only be described as an irresistible perma-grin smile, their joy is infectious. They are seriously passionate about their crop and food research, manufacturing plant design and field agronomic work. Dean is a wealth of knowledge and has been an invaluable resource for me in my education about these oats
Dr, David Sands is in a category all by himself. All business and oozing academia, Professor of Plant Pathology at Montana State University , Dr. Sands spearheaded the efforts to develop the GF Naked Oat. He is a scientist extraordinaire, principal supporter, primary cheerleader, international contact maker and best friend of the Montana Gluten-Free Processors.
The Naked Oat Folks were all in attendance when we arrived with our cameras. Just inside the door, the entire product line was prominentaly displayed. Larry had also prepared his newest loaf of GF Toasted Naked Oat Bread along with his famous Pizzelles and Pumpkin Muffins.
Backstory:Until our diagnosis 6 years ago oats had always been a staple in my daughter's and my diets. Prior to her diagnosis, my daughter, Amy started her day with a bowl of Quaker oatmeal. Learning to bake, she perfected her own recipe for Oatmeal cookies. Connecting the dots backwards, (as so many of us do) we now know that our daily oatmeal regime was most likely contributing to our decline. Amy's slide down Celiac's slippery slope resulted in a 30 pound weight loss before we had our answer. Up to that point, we mistakenly thought that oatmeal was a good choice for our gut issues. Pretty much a perfect food, high in the fiber and B vitamins that are often missing in our gluten-free diets, Oats were very hard to give up.
Bottomline: For the last six years we have been on a quest to discover a gluten-free oat that we can tolerate...without much luck.
(back at the mill) I considered the bowl of oats and posed this question:
"Why are so many Celiac's still intolerant to gluten-free oats?"
The answer went something like this: "It seems to be the G 12 protein in oats that causes an allergic reaction in some individuals. Some gluten-free oats test very high in this protein. So even if they are grown in a completely gluten-free environment, these oats can still be intolerable."
Here's the game-changer: GF Naked Oats are a different species of oats and are very low in this avenin peptide - (which causes the allergic reaction.) Possibly even lower than some varieties of rice."
What??? Could Amy and I tolerate these new oats? Could this GF Naked Oatmeal be the Holy Grail of GF oats?
Dean Miller added a few more thoughts about what makes this oat so special and unique: "It's because they're neckhead", he snapped his head with a definitive nob and flashed his trademarked smile. "NECK HEAD???" I asked. Just then Larry appeared quietly over Dean's shoulder: "He means, um, ...naked"
Then everyone spoke at once. They filled in the blanks with the science behind the naked oats. Dr. Sands said we should visit the gluten-free naked- oat field a few miles away. Someone showed me a recent document from the U.S Senate: bestowing "The 2011 Special Agricutlture Operations Award" for their "contributions to agriculture." Dean handed me a booklet with testamonials from satisfied customers around the country. And Larry offered up a bowl of steaming GF Naked Oatmeal.
Sorting it out now and boiling it all down, here is what I've come up with: The Gluten-Free Naked Oat comes from a hull-less ("Naked") oat. For some reason these Naked Oats are naturally very low in a protein that most resembles gluten, which is why sensitive Celiac's may be able to tolerate them. Larry (Celiac research baker) explained to me that he is very sensitive and eats these Gluten-Free Naked Oats daily. At that moment I could feel it. The perfect storm of my gluten-freedom was brewing right before me. And I hadn't even seen the mill yet.
Touring the mill, Dean explained that the PrOatina gluten-free oat is grown in nearby fields that have been wheat-free for at least 4 years. Their farmers constantly scour the fields for any intruders and since these oats are shorter than wheat, intruders are easy to spot prior to harvest. The oats are harvested with dedicated combines, and NO wheat has ever been in the processing facility. NO wheat is allowed through the packaging doors. At the end of the tour Dean said that the GF Naked Oats consistently test out at 3 ppm.
I'm not sure exactly what happened next, but I'm sure it involved a leap of faith. And luckily it's all on film. We walked back into the front office, past Larry's samples of bread, muffins, pizzelles and...yes...those OATS! The next thing I knew, I scooped up the bowl of oatmeal and consumed several spoonfulls without giving it a second thought.
That was almost a month ago. So now you know why this post is so late.
Our visit with Montana's Gluten-Free Naked Oat Folks turned out to be so much more than just another wonderful and scenic stop on our Gluten-Free Road Trip, that I had to delve into the science (google is my friend) and give the Naked gluten-free oats a proper trial before issuing this post. I also issued a query on the Celiac ListServ to see how other Celiacs are faring in their search for a compatible gluten-free oat.
Following Larry's advice, I started out very slowly. He said that whether Celiac, gluten-intolerant or none of the above, all oats are very high in fiber and should be introduced slowly. He explained that many Celiacs get into gluten-free oats too quickly and mistake a bad reaction for an intolerance. After a week with NO ISSUES!!! I was feeling confident enough to send a couple of samples to Amy. She spent almost 2 weeks just looking at them. Then last week she called to order her first bag of PrOatina Gluten-Free Naked Oats. For the first time in over 6 years oats are back in our lives.
If you think this is an emotional moment, you are correct.
I've already made granola, a granola bar and a blueberry crumble. And I'm hoping that Amy sends me some of her Oatmeal cookies. Today, my daughter and I are thrilled to have this perfect food back in our lives.
Oh and by the way, we did visit the gluten-free naked oat field that day, but this post is long enough. Please stay tuned. On my next post, Dr. Sands takes us on a tour of the gluten-free oat field. Back at the mill we'll be introduced to the GF Naked Oat flour and Larry will offer a sampling of his GF Naked Oat based mixes.
Finally, at this point I can only speak for my daugher and myself. But if a safe, tolerable, gluten-free oat is on your gluten-free bucket list, then these GF Naked Oats just might be worth a try.
Bonus: The GF Naked Oat policy is "try before you buy". They'd love to send you a free sample. Details to get your free sample will be in the next post.
Again, all of the details will be in my next post.
And, yes! We're still making our way to Yellowstone.
Thanks again for joining us on our journey to go gluten-free in wheat country.
Disclaimer: I am not a Doctor, lawyer, rocket scientist or King. My mission in life is to raise awareness about Celiac Disease. Everything on this website is provided for informational, educational and entertainment use only and should not be used for any diagnostic purpose. Always consult with your physician regarding your health concerns.