To some who pass by, the tall stems waving gently in the breeze that blows off the nearby Forth seem to be nothing more than larger than normal blades of unusual grass.

Deep gold in colour, stretching almost up to shoulder height, it grows in the most unexpected of places; on patches of land at busy street corners, beside garden trampolines and kids’ bikes and in one case – to the amusement of some of those in the know – opposite a branch of Lidl.

However, it is not grass that is growing in well-tended patches of the north Edinburgh housing estate of Granton. Instead, as baker Charlie Hanks points out: “This is life in the making.”

The crop - surprisingly for Edinburgh’s built-up waterfront area, is wheat. Once harvested by hand, threshed and its grains milled into flour for mixing with just water and salt – all that Charlie chooses to add to this very special flour – it will become a flavoursome, slightly nutty, dense but, he insists, delicious bread.

Indeed, it is the kind of daily bread that Scots of generations ago would have given solemn praise for. And the small patches of golden wheat are providing a rare glimpse into the nutritious, wholesome bread of the past – and how it might be again.

The wheat growing by the sides of some of Granton’s busy roads is the result of careful backtracking to retrieve ancient and long forgotten grains with evocative names like Rouge d’Ecosse, Hunter’s and Golden Drop.

Once familiar to Scots’ rural communities, they were eventually swamped by the post-WW2 shift to intensive farming which saw countless grain varieties which had adapted over thousands of years to thrive in Scottish soil and climate, replaced by swathes of uniform, easy to harvest wheat crops requiring fertilisers, pesticides and chemicals.

Small mills which once served local communities closed and bread became increasingly just white and sliced, with flour - stripped of its best qualities - imported in bulk from Canada and Kazakhstan.

Now, though, spurred on by a nationwide lockdown breadmaking craze that sawhome bakers debate sourdough and bread over social media and a long-standing determination to revive Scotland’s forgotten heritage grains, plans have been revealed to create a national grain hub that will help bring long lost loaves back to the country’s tables.

Fife-based community organisation Scotland The Bread – which provided the seeds for the Granton ‘wheatfields’ through its ‘Soil to Slice’ project – has unveiled a five year vision it’s hoped will see once forgotten grains return to farmers’ fields and community gardens in towns and cities across the country.

Under its ‘Fife Fermenter’ proposal, locally-grown heritage wheat would travel a short distance from the field to networks of small mills, which in turn would supply local bakers with nutrient-packed flour.

Because of the flour’s low gluten levels and gentle production methods which preserve the grains’ goodness, the hope is bread produced using heritage grains will bring a raft of health and environmental benefits.

Scotland The Bread founder Andrew Whitley said test crops which have been grown from heritage grains have shown a steady increase in mineral density, while an innovative milling process means nutrient-rich bran and wheat germ remains in the final product.

Because the bread the flour produces is denser and more filling, there’s less tendency among consumers to over-eat, while the connection with production helps avoid unnecessary waste.

“Fewer slices of well-fermented real bread make you feel full,” he says. “Put simply, growing – and eating – ‘less but better’ takes pressure off budgets and belts, as well as allowing biodiversity to recover from the onslaught of intensive chemical farming.

“Less but better is a key message of public health nutritionists in Scotland who lament the slow progress in tackling diet-related ill health.”

Scotland The Bread researched wheat and rye varieties and sourced grains from international supplies which match the genetic traits of traditional Scottish varieties.

Crops of Hunter’s, Rouge d’Ecosse and Golden Drop varieties are now grown organically at nearby Balcaskie Estate, along with other farms and community gardens across the central belt - including at Granton.

Once harvested, it is milled using a modern ‘cyclone’ style mill which conserves all the important minerals, vitamins and phenolic compounds found in the outer bran layers of the grain which are almost entirely absent in white flour.

Unlike typical wholemeal flour, it emerges as an extremely fine flour which bakers find it less coarse to work with than some wholemeal flours. Heritage wheat also tends to have less of the ‘elastic’ gluten bred into modern hybrid wheats and which has been associated with allergies and intolerance.

Mr Whitley said part of the Scotland The Bread vision is to bring higher quality bread to low income communities, reconnecting them with food production and addressing diet-related ill health and food inequality.

“We want to link farmers, mills, end users in a much shorter supply chain in hundreds of parts of Scotland,” he said. “Farmers are currently being asked to grow varieties that yield a lot of grain to keep the price down but which aren’t necessarily going to make the best or most nutritious bread.

“Farmers would be delighted to grow for local markets rather than being at the mercy of big corporates and markets.”

Meanwhile in Granton, the wheat being grown on postage stamp-sized community plots has shot up in recent weeks. Next month it will be harvested by hand and the grain milled to help produce some of the bread made by Charlie at Granton Garden Bakery, and distributed to locals on a ‘pay what you can afford’ basis.

“Bakers tend to want flour that is predictable, with a high gluten content. The flour can be a nightmare to make bread with, but it is so good,” says Charlie.

“We have got used to thinking that bread should be fluffy, well-risen, white, made from Canadian four,” he adds. “People don’t think of flour having a taste, they’re used to store cupboard, anonymous white powder. And a lot of people haven’t seen wheat growing.

“Some people walk past and ask what’s growing because it looks like long grass. Then suddenly it takes off and there’s this fabulous billowing crop. These old varieties are two or three times the height of modern wheat, it’s so evocative,” he adds.

“During lockdown I went to look at this tiny crop, I immersed myself in it and thought ‘this is life in the making’.

“You just need flour, water and salt.”