To research this issue, we need to go deep into the history. Thus we will understand the reasons for the rapid growth in popularity of today's spelt in Western Europe.
So, what is emmer, spelt, kamut, and dinkel?
Spelt is ancient wheat species. Its origin goes back to the 7th millennium B.C. in the region of Syria and Lebanon. In the 1st millennium B.C. it came to Europe and became known as “spelt”. German local name of spelt is “dinkel”. In the US these wheat species are called “kamut”.
In botanic terms, it is correct to say that emmer is spelt's ancestor. But for us, emmer, spelt, dinkel, and kamut are, actually, the same – the ancient wheat species. The most commonly used name is spelt.
Spelt was widespread in our territories until the late 19th century. For example, it appears in Pushkin's fairy tale “The Tale of the Priest and His Workman Balda”:
“Balda said, ‘I will serve you nicely,
Hard and very properly,
And my pay for the year is — three raps on your forehead,
Give me boiled spelt when I'm fed...”
It is no wonder, as spelt contains the largest amount of proteins, amino acids, fibre and vitamin complex among all grain crops. It contains as much proteins as meat does.
So, why is spelt so rarely available now? The answer lies in the following two reasons.
Firstly, it is due to low spelt yields compared to traditional wheat species. Secondly, its production involves very time-consuming process of grain cleaning. Looking at the photo of uncleaned spelt grains, we can imagine how difficult it is to remove their tough outer bran. For these reasons, since the beginning of the 20th century, spelt has been completely pushed out from fields by new, modern selective wheat species, which have 2-3 times higher yield.
Spelt and problems of today’s gluten allergy.
All the European wheat species are derived from spelt (emmer). Spelt and soft wheat have the same genome set. However, spelt differs by its protein composition. Therefore those who suffer partial gluten intolerance can consume spelt products. From allergists’ perspective and experience, even if a person is allergic to all cereals and gluten contained in them, it does not mean that he is allergic to spelt. It is less allergenic.
The reason of traditional wheat allergenicity can also be explained as follows. Plant breeding achieved amazing results over the last century: heavy-productive varieties, more viable hybrids, etc. But over rather short timeline of human body evolution, our stomach obviously had not enough time to adapt to new wheat species and now responds by allergies.
This explains the boom of spelt and its products in Europe: spelt cereals, as well as breads, pastries, and pasta made from spelt flour. Allergic responses in people eating spelt occur much less frequently.
And this explains our desire to bring this healthy product to Ukrainian market, even if it's quite expensive.