Resurrecting Biblical Wheats
Emmer (see previous page) is just one of several ancient wheats that could help the modern world. Two others are being rescued in Europe. The efforts summarized below could be the spur for similar endeavors to bring emmer back as a major crop as well.
Until recently everyone thought that einkorn, perhaps the earliest of all cultivated wheats, was essentially extinct. But in 1989, botanist Jacques Barrau reported the following experience in the south of France.
"In 1971, I decided to look at all the food plants in the mountains of Vaucluse, where my father's family had its origin. From childhood memories, I knew that a kind of porridge was a popular peasant dish there in winter. I started looking for the cereal used for that purpose and found to my surprise that it was the neolithic [Stone Age] einkorn, Triticum monococcum. The crop was still being grown there, as well as in some localities in the Southern Alps, as a subsistence cereal of which the unground grain was used to prepare this special porridge. This was unknown to my learned friends in French agricultural research.
"Today, this relict prehistoric wheat is beginning to find markets as a 'natural health-food,' and it sells at a price rather satisfying for the stubborn traditional growers who, through generations, had kept it in cultivation, just to satisfy their lasting taste for this porridge."
For the Stone Age inhabitants of what is now south Germany, spelt (Triticum spelta) was the main food source. Later, however, this primitive winter cereal was abandoned—not because of inferiority but because farmers found other wheats easier to grow. For one thing, spelt's grain had a close-fitting husk that made it harder to thresh, and its very long straw meant that summer winds could blow the plants down.
Now, spelt (or dinkel as it is usually called in Germany) is coming back as a crop. In this case, the driving forces behind its return are modern consumer preferences—notably the rising appreciation for good nutrition and for protecting the environment. Nutritionally speaking, spelt is very exciting. Breadmaking wheats in northern Europe generally contain around 11 percent