Let’s take a look at the most ancient wheat there is.
Einkorn, also called Farro Piccolo, is known as “nature’s original wheat.” In a world where wheat digestion is an ever present problem, it’s worth a look at for its digestive benefits and nutrient density, not to mention its amazing flavor!
Einkorn most likely originated in the Near East region known as the Fertile Crescent. This productive stretch of land boasts (not exclusively) the beginnings of many useful things, such as the wheel, glass, writing, irrigation, and…the cultivation of einkorn!
However, the presence of einkorn waned into relative nonexistence until September of 1991 when Helmut and Erika Simon decided to go for a little hike in the Italian Alps.
These two hikers discovered a body sticking out of a melting glacier. Talk about startling!
That body later became known as Otzi the iceman. Maybe you’ve heard of him. Maybe not. His body, along with the last thing he ate, was preserved in ice for over 5,000 years. What do you think was present in Otzi’s last meal? You guessed it! Einkorn. It was clearly a staple in the region where Otzi came from. In other words, einkorn has traveled a long way to be with us today.
Due to its slip into obscurity, einkorn escaped the tampering that many other grains went through. As a result, it is the only type of wheat that has never been hybridized (“crossing two genetically different individuals to result in a third individual with a different set of traits”) and still only has two sets of chromosomes.
In non-scientific language, that means that it’s as pure as it was 12,000 years ago! The difference between einkorn and regular wheat is in more than the digestion and nutrition; it’s clearly visible. Einkorn grains are smaller than wheat we use today and they are lacking some of the physical properties of modern wheat, such as the crease on the side.
Why does that matter?
Humans originally started using forced hybridization to alter grains in order attain certain desirable characteristics. More gluten, higher yield, easier to harvest, etc. More gluten was especially sought after because it made for lighter, nicer baked goods. It worked really well until all this gluten–intolerance started surfacing.
Now, gluten-intolerant folks and health-food seekers are searching for a return to wholesomeness in our food. Considering that einkorn has only been in our modern-day hands for the last 22 years, I’d say it’s pretty wholesome, and the research agrees (See nutritional facts for detailed information).
Other names for Einkorn include:
- triticum monococcum (botanical)
- farro piccolo (Italy)
- engrain (French)
- Le petit épautre (French)
- sifon (Hebrew)