Wheat has been grown and used since at least 9,000 BC and use of the wild grain has been dated as far back as 23,000 BC. And although we mostly think of wheat as a Western grain and staple – the Western version of Rice basically.
Wheat is also an oriental grain coming from the arc of countries known to scholars as the Fertile crescent. Looking a a map you can see these countries arc from Egypt through Palestine and Israel to Syria, Turkey and Iraq.
Genetically wheat is a complex grain with some types having 2 sets of chromosomes like Einkorn Wheat and others having 4 sets – like Durum and Emmer while others have even 6 sets of chromosomes like Common Wheat and Spelt Wheat.
What this means is that farmers and plant breeders have a rich resource to use to select breeds that for example have a higher yield or a shorter stalk
Like any whole food wheat has a range of proteins, fats and starches along with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Much of that is lost when the grain is ground and “refined” into a processed and somewhat depleted food – so much so that Governments mandate the partial replacement of some of the nutrients lost in the milling.
That being the case the use of whole grains is advisable on a routine basis with the “white” flours being used only occasionally for particular recipes.
As a protein wheat has around 12 grams per 100 grams and beats other staple foods such as maize/corn, rice and potatoes and comes second only to Soy beans 13 grams per 100 gms.
The precise amount of protein will vary by variety of wheat with Khorasan Wheat coming in at 12 to 18 grams of protein per 100 gm.
Speaking of which…
Khorasan Wheat is also called Oriental Wheat although really all wheat is oriental since it originated in the Near East probably in Turkey.
Kamut is a particular variety of Khorasan wheat and is actually trademarked to protect its integrity and use. It is grown organically and is known as a high energy wheat from its high content of both protein and of valuable fatty acids. It is also rich in the anti-cancer mineral selenium and in manganese and magnesium.
These health properties have not gone unnoticed. One study looked the effects of switching people between using Kamut or standard wheat in pasta, bread etc. Two groups of people were used and they were then switched after 8 weeks. The results were remarkable in the Kamut group – Cholesterol went down for total cholesterol and LDL, blood glucose levels was reduced by 7%. Their anti-oxidant levels improved as did blood markers of inflammation. Added to that, the researchers found increased levels in the blood of magnesium and potassium for the Kamut group. Research paper
This is an ancient variety of wheat that originated in Turkey and although spread through much of Europe is now a speciality crop mostly used by health conscious folks who find it easier to digest than standard wheat. Like all wheat it has gluten but the form of the gluten seems less problematic and it may be possible for those with wheat allergies to tolerate Einkorn. And while it may be possible for those with heat allergies to tolerate Einkorn and other ancient strains of wheat research evidence so far warns those with Celiac disease to regard them all as hazardous. So Einkron may be the ancient wheat of the Pharaohs but if you are following a Gluten free diet then the best advice is to avoid it!
Emmer Wheat is one of the alternatives to standard Wheat and Wheat flour that Foodies and people with allergies are trying out.
Far from being a new fashionable food Emmer is one of the group of staple foods pioneered by farmers in the Near East in an arc called the Fertile Crescent from Northern Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, to Iraq in a burst of creativity in which crops like Wheat, Emmer, Einkorn, Barley, Peas were cultivated and perhaps cross bred.
In case you are wondering why farmers are still growing this ancient wheat, the mere fact that it has survived unscathed by thousands of years in different soils and climates points to a possible future of thriving in a the conditions of climate change and possible desertification. Does it have the tough genes needed over the near future?
It looks promising but only time tell. If consumers like it in sufficient numbers and pay a premium price then it may flourish as a niche food and from there cross into the main stream.
Spelt Wheat is one of the cross breeds of Emmer Wheat and one of the Wild grasses of the Fertile Crescent. It is an ancient wheat but if gaining popularity and some people who cannot easily digest ordinary wheat can easily digest Spelt. However it is still a type of wheat and if eating wheat gives you a headache then perhaps Spelt will too.
This video pulls a lot of the info above together…