Aug 28, 2013

Grain Challenge: July/August - Wheat (Kamut/Spelt)

July’s Grain of the Month is Wheat. Worldwide, wheat is the third most-produced grain, trailing only corn (maize) and rice. In the United States, wheat accounts for about two-thirds of all grains consumed. However, much of the wheat we eat is refined (missing its nutritious bran and germ) or enriched (refined grain with just five of the dozens of missing or reduced nutrients added back in). So it’s important to remember that this page celebrates whole grain wheat.


Imagine you’re part of a nomadic tribe chasing wild game, and today you’ve come up empty. Nothing to do but chew on a handful of grass seeds to alleviate your hunger. But wait! This grass tastes better than the grass we used to eat… The seeds in question were from a clan of wild grasses known as Triticeae, the early ancestors of wheat, barley and rye. Some of the earliest varieties – einkorn and emmer – are still enjoyed today in the areas where they are thought to have originated: einkorn in Georgia, Armenia, and Turkey, and emmer (farro) in the Central Mediterranean. 

Einkorn is like most plants in that it is a diploid meaning it contains 2 sets of chromosomes.  About 2,000 years after einkorn wheat, emmer wheat was created by the hybridization of 2 wild grasses.  Consequently, emmer has 4 sets of chromosomes.  Kamut and Durum wheat are both descendents of emmer. Spelt is the result of hybridization between cultivated emmer and another wild grass and so contains six sets of chromosomes.  Modern wheat is a descendent of spelt. As you can see, einkorn is the purest and most ancient form of wheat available as it only has 2 sets of chromosomes (so only 14 total) and is naturally very low in gluten!

Early largely-extinct wild wheat varieties had fourteen chromosomes (diploid), ancient-but-extant varieties such as durum wheat and Kamut® have 28 chromosomes (tetraploid), while most modern wheats have forty-two chromosomes (hexaploid).
As agrarian civilization replaced hunters and gatherers, newer varieties of wheat became favorite grains for two main reasons: the seeds were easy to separate from the inedible parts of the grain, and the dough became elastic when mixed with liquid. This meant it was easy to harvest the grain, and to create a wide range of interesting foods, from breads, to porridges, to pastas using wheat.
Red Wheat BerriesTriticum aestivum L.
Individual wheat kernels are usually referred to as "wheat berries" when they're sold in stores. You can cook these whole kernels, or berries, just as you'd cook rice – to enjoy as a side dish.
Red Wheat is the most commonly-grown wheat in the U.S. An albino variety of wheat, called White Wheat, has a lighter color and milder taste but is equally nutritious.
Triticum spelta L.
Spelt is perhaps the best known of the "ancient" wheats. Some eight centuries ago, when spelt had already been cultivated for several millennia, Hildegard von Bingen wrote of spelt, "The spelt is the best of grains. It is rich and nourishing and milder than other grain. It produces a strong body and healthy blood to those who eat it and makes the spirit of man light and cheerful."  Today, once again, spelt breads and pastas are fairly widely available. 
Khorosan WheatTriticum turgidum, ssp. turanicum
Khorosan wheat, often sold under the brand name Kamut®, is considered a type of durum wheat. As part of the brand identity, Kamut® khorosan is always organic, and is higher in zinc, magnesium and especially selenium, when compared to modern wheat. Kamut® khorosan is especially popular in Italy, a country responsible for about half of world-wide production. Click here for more.
Emmer or FarroTriticum turgidum L. group dicoccum
Emmer, also known as Farro, is one of the oldest forms of wheat we know. Pliny the Elder, natural historian of the Roman Empire, wrote about emmer as already ancient in his time; he described how it was formerly called adoreum (or "glory") and played a major role in religious sacrifices.
Wheat Flakes
We're used to seeing oats in flaked (rolled) form. You may be surprised to know that wheat flakes are also widely available (we bought these at our local health food store) and make a fun addition to baked goods or a tasty breakfast cereal.
Spelt Flakes
Ditto everything above, but this time these are spelt flakes.
Kamut® Puffs
Any kind of wheat can be puffed. These puffs just happen to be made from  Kamut®. Unlike corn, amaranth, and sorghum, all of which can be puffed (think popped!) in your kitchen, it takes industrial machinery to get wheat to pop open like this.
Bulgur Wheat
Bulgur is not a variety of wheat like those above – it's a traditional way of processing wheat. To make bulgur, the wheat kernels are cooked, then dried, then broken up into smaller pieces. Because bulgur is largely pre-cooked, you can "finish it off" in your kitchen in about 15-20 minutes.
Two kinds of bulgur are pictured here: red wheat bulgur on the left and white wheat bulgur on the right.
Whole Wheat Flours
Yes, these are BOTH whole wheat flours. On the left you see traditional whole wheat flour, made from red wheat, and on the right, it's white whole wheat flour, made from white wheat.


In truth there are many, many varieties of wheat not pictured above. But these two seemed especially important to mention.
Durum Wheat [Triticum turgidum L. group Durum Desf.]
Durum is a hard wheat, high in protein, that's commonly used to make pasta and couscous. Most durum wheat grown today is amber durum, which has a delightful golden color.  Durum wheat grows well without irrigation, making it well suited to dry climates.
Einkorn [Triticum monococcum L]
Generally thought to be the most ancient of wheat varieties available today, einkorn is still grown in Austria, southern France (where it’s called petit épeautre), Germany, and some eastern European countries. Studies show that compared to modern wheat it’s higher in protein, phosphorus, potassium, and beta-carotene, among other nutrients. Very low in gluten!
Did you know that some ancient wheats such as Emmer (Farro) and Einkorn may be much higher in antioxidants and may be digested differently than common wheat? (many people have problems digesting today's modern wheat, but can handle more ancient forms with less gluten).


We cook whole wheat at home in four main ways: as flour in baked goods; as wheat berries for side dishes and in casseroles; as bulgur; and as pasta or couscous. 
Flour. Whole wheat flour behaves a bit differently in recipes than refined all-purpose flour. As a rule of thumb, you can generally substitute whole wheat flour for up to half the all-purpose flour in a recipe. To make foods using more whole wheat, we recommend you start with recipes specifically designed to be their most delicious with whole wheat.
In general, whole white wheat flour is milder in flavor and smoother in texture than "regular" whole wheat flour. There are also special flours available that combine whole white wheat flour and all-purpose flour in the same bag, to make it even easier to transition your taste buds over to whole grains.
Wheat Berries. Whole wheat kernels are usually described as "wheat berries." You cook them in water or broth (about 2 1/2 cups liquid for each cup of wheat berries) for about 45-60 minutes. As always when cooking grains, taste a few as cooking progresses. When the grains are soft enough for you, they're done. You can add more liquid and cook longer, or drain extra liquid off if the grains are done to your taste before all the liquid is absorbed.
Bulgur. Bulgur is wheat that's been pre-cooked and broken into pieces, so you can quickly "finish it off" in your kitchen. Generally, you can simply add boiling water or broth to bulgur (about 1 3/4 to 2 cups liquid per cup of bulgur) and let it soak for about 20-25 minutes in a covered pot.
Pasta and couscous: Couscous is not a grain (there is no couscous plant!) – it's more like a small grain-shaped pasta. Whole wheat couscous is so small it can usually be "cooked" simply by soaking in boiling water, while pasta takes about 8 minutes to cook.


Try kamut or spelt in any recipe to substitute for wheat. Or if you have digestive issues with some of today's modern wheat, try soaked grain recipes. 



some of this info from the Whole Foods Council

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