This time we focus on the so-called ancient grains of emmer, khorasan einkorn. These are not only found in backaldrin’s "My Ancient Grain-Bread" but are once again winning prominence. The following nutritional advice tells you more about what characterises these cereal grains and what is distinctive about their physiology.
Emmer is native to the Middle East. Approximately 10,000 years ago it was already found in almost every settlement of the Neolithic Era. Emmer expanded its reach to Central Europe, together with barley and einkorn. Emmer and einkorn belong to the family of spelt crops. The kernels are enclosed in solid sheaths, the husks. This protects the valuable grain from harmful environmental influences and, at the same time, ensures a longer shelf life of the grain. The mature grains do not separate from the enveloping husks during threshing. A special process is required to remove the husks. Because of the low nutrient requirements of emmer, it is especially suitable for cultivation in dry and poor soils. Since the yields are barely increased with the use of artificial fertilisers, it is an ideal crop for organic farming.
Emmer has a high beta-Carotene content. The carotenoids are among the phytochemicals that act as antioxidants, scavenging the free radicals which are formed in the body as “waste products” and which play a role in cancer development. Emmer also contains zinc and magnesium. These minerals activate numerous enzymes in the human body, particularly in energy metabolism. Emmer has the ideal properties for making pasta products, small baked goods and desserts. Emmer flour is slightly dark in colour and the very high gluten content makes it versatile and easy to use.
The homeland of einkorn is located in the area between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. From there, einkorn gradually spread to Europe from about 7,600 BC. During the Bronze Age, einkorn was one of the main crops. Over time, einkorn gave way to barley and emmer and, in the course of modern industrial grain production, was later replaced by newer soft wheat cultivars. Only in Italy was it still used as animal feed as pigs fed with einkorn, allegedly, grew faster, were healthier and had shinier bristles. Characteristic of einkorn is the bulbous, soft grain and yellowish endosperm. Bread made with einkorn, therefore, has a yellowish colour and a slightly nutty flavour.
Because of its healthy contents and delicate flavour, einkorn was gradually rediscovered. Einkorn contains a particularly large amount of amino acids. It is also rich in B vitamins, magnesium, iron, phosphorous and zinc. The high content of carotenoids, which are considered to be natural antioxidants, is particularly noteworthy. Despite its not to high gluten content, einkorn flour is ideally suited to the production of breads, baked goods and pasta dough. A further specialty is einkorn rice, which involves ground grains being cooked in the same way as rice. In addition, einkorn is an interesting alternative for people who are wheat intolerant.
Khorasan is an ancient relative of the modern day durum wheat, and is originally from the “Fertile Crescent” – the land between Egypt and the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. The Egyptians gave it the name “Kamut”, which means “the soul of the earth”. In the years following its discovery, the use of the grain in Egypt was widespread, but was lost within the upper class. In 1948, it was rediscovered for a short time, only to be cast aside again because of low incomes and lack of commercial interest. It was only in 1977 that this healthy cereal crop made a global breakthrough. The khorasan kernel is about twice as large as the conventional wheat seed and has a glassy, yellowish colour. It lends a mildly nutty flavour to bread. In handling, this ancient grain displays characteristics similar to rye. The particular properties of the starch cause a delayed retrogradation (reformation in gelatinised starch), causing the baked goods to stay fresh and light for a surprisingly long time.
Khorasan contains 20% to 30% more protein than ordinary wheat. It contains high quality fatty acids, easily digestible carbohydrates and 30% to 35% more magnesium and zinc than modern wheat varieties. Particularly noteworthy is the high content of selenium. Selenium is one of the essential trace elements and is a component of many enzymes (catalysts of biochemical reactions). It is important in the production of thyroid hormones. Selenium forms with vitamins E and C and is an essential factor of the body’s protective system.
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