Spelt, the inside story

Spelt (Triticum spelta) is an ancient grain which should not be confused with common bread wheat (Triticum sativum). Spelt is a member of the same cereal grain family but is an entirely different species and has certain properties which make it in many respects quite different. Having fallen from favour as a grain for cultivation in the 19th century following the rapid development in modern farming techniques, spelt is currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity as information about its value as a food source and its ability to be tolerated by many people with wheat sensitivities becomes more widely known.

History and Origins

Spelt is approximately 9000 years old. There is evidence that spelt was cultivated by ancient civilizations both in Europe and the Middle East thousands of years ago. It is mentioned in the Old Testament and in various Roman texts. Carbonated grains of spelt have been found throughout Europe including Britain, in many Stone Age excavations. Its popularity remained widespread, especially in Eastern Europe, until the end of the 19th century. German records of one region, dated 1850, showed that 94 percent of the cereal acreage was producing spelt and only 5 percent producing bread wheat. The rapid fall from favour of spelt was mirrored by rapid developments in modern farming. Once combined harvesters were introduced which could harvest common bread wheat in a single process it would have no longer been so attractive for farmers to continue to grow spelt. This is because each individual grain of spelt unlike common wheat is covered by a tough outer husk which requires removal in a further process before the grain can be milled into flour.

Fortunately spelt was not entirely lost to mankind and in the mid 1980′s it was rediscovered in Europe and has undergone a major resurgence in many parts of the world ever since. However for this to happen, special machinery which could de-hull individual spelt grains in commercial quantities needed to be introduced into the chain of production for making flour. However by this stage it was realized by those taking the lead in this renaissance that the time and cost of having to do this was far outweighed the advantages to both farmers and consumers of resurrecting this ancient grain.

Health Benefits

Due to spelt’s high water solubility, the grain’s vital substances can be absorbed quickly into the body. The nutrients are made available to the entire organism with a minimum of digestive work. The body cells are then nourished, strengthened, and prepared for their optimal performance while the body is flooded with vitamins and other nutritional substances. Spelt contains more protein, fats and crude fibre than wheat and also has large amounts of Vitamin B17 (anti-carcinoma). It also contains special carbohydrates which play a decisive role in blood clotting and stimulate the body’s immune system so as to increase its resistance to infection.

Bioavailability of Spelt

Bioavailability is more than just a long, complicated word. It’s a physical process which more and more health and nutrition-conscious people are using to evaluate the benefits of the food they eat. They may not even know they’re evaluating “bioavailability.” But smart people everywhere are catching on to the concept, even if they don’t know the name for it.

Strictly speaking, bioavailability refers to the percentage of nutrients you eat which are actually digested, absorbed and put to use by your system. In general, nutrients consumed in the “food state” have higher rates of bioavailability than dietary food supplements taken in tablet or liquid form. Nutritionists feel that “food state” nutrients are naturally combined with hosts of other ingredients which help the body to recognize it as food. It doesn’t matter how well your automobile engine is running if there are no tires to get it around. And it doesn’t matter how nutritious your food is if the nutrients don’t reach the places where they can do you some good.

Spelt rates high in the bioavailability department. The nutrients in Spelt get to the places where they’re needed, and they get there without requiring much work on your part. Your body can use its energy reservoirs to fight off diseases and environmental toxins instead of using it to digest dinner.

Environmental Benefits

Spelt is a relatively low yielding crop so doesn’t take as much from the soil as more modern crops. It is therefore a more sustainable crop on a long term basis. Being low yielding it also thrives without the application of fertilizers even on relatively poor soils. Spelt is also very resistant to frosts and other extreme weather conditions and the grain’s exceptionally thick husk protects it from pollutants and insects. As spelt is a pure, original grain and not biologically modified in any way it is very resistant to the crop diseases that often plague modern crop varieties and grows quite successfully without the application of herbicides, pesticides or fungicides.

Spelt is stored with the husk intact so it remains fresher over a much longer period than other grains. It has been claimed that spelt’s hull is so strong that it can protect the grain from virtually every type of pollutant, even radioactive fallout.

Above information sourced from The Spelt Bakers.)

Where is spelt grown?

Spelt is grown in Tasmania and other pats of Australia (and the world).

At The Garden Shed and Pantry I sell organic, locally grown, Tasmanian spelt flour which is sifted to be quite light and I sell organic, wholemeal, South Australian spelt flour and grain.

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