Growers us their noodle

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
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WA wheatgrowers made, cooked and dished up udon noodles to Perth families at the weekend, as part of the Japan Festival in Forrest Place, Perth.

Farmers including John Young, of Calingiri, and GRDC Nuffield Scholar Colin De Grussa, of Esperance, lent a hand to Japan-based noodle chefs and learnt more about their grain's end product.

Stall provider, Perth's Japanese consul-general Koichi Funayama, along with Japanese Hanamaru Noodle Company president Tetsuya Narusealso, helped to make and serve the handmade udon.

Mr Young, who has been growing noodle wheat on his Wyenning Mission farm for the past 15 years, said there was plenty of positive feedback from festival-goers, particularly on the process that goes into making the noodles.

The noodles were being handmade, which fulfils the higher end of the udon market (udon noodles are also made industrially to meet the mass market).

Mr Young said after the noodles were made, they were cooked for 10 minutes and served with a light coating of egg (applied raw but lightly cooked on the noodles), and soy sauce. He said the udon noodles had reignited a passion for the wheat he produced.

"Often we don't think about exactly what happens to our product at the very end of the chain," he said.

WA-grown noodles are considered excellent for the production of premium Japanese udon noodles.

About 850,000 tonnes of WA wheat are exported to Japan each year for the manufacture of noodles, accounting for about 75 per cent of Australia's total wheat exports to Japan. From 2008-2013, Japan was Australia's fourth-largest importer of wheat in terms of volume and value.

Grains Industry Association of WA chairman and Quairading graingrower Sean Powell said the event was an opportunity to demonstrate to city dwellers the important international role of WA wheat.

Mr Young said five or six years ago, about half his 2500ha wheat crop was planted to noodle wheat, though this had dropped off to just a few hundred hectares in recent years.

"We were planting the Calingiri variety and the yields just weren't matching up compared to other types of wheat coming onto the market," he said. "Disease susceptibility was also a factor."

However, Mr Young is enthusiastic about the new varieties of Supreme and Zen released last year by InterGrain and plans to bulk up seed this year.

"The future is very bright for noodle wheat, but the varieties have to deliver agronomically," Mr Young said.

Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre chief executive David Fienberg said the hot, dry growing environment of the Wheatbelt was conducive to producing a wheat with the properties required by Japan's noodle makers, including creamy, bright flour colour and excellent colour stability.

Australia works closely with Japan's flour milling and noodle-making sector to ensure new varieties continued to live up to the quality expected for udon production.

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