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Healthy Eating

When It Comes to Nutrition, Ancient Wheat Can’t Be Beat

It’s called einkorn, and it’s been found in archaeological sites dating back 12,000 years or more! Why even care? Einkorn, or ancient wheat, has a higher protein content than any other wheat, and it offers 3–4 times more beta-carotene and 4 times the antioxidants lutein and riboflavin.

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Einkorn. You’ve probably never heard of it—I hadn’t. And yet it’s been around for quite a while. In fact, when Adam and Eve cooked up a mess of porridge for breakfast, it was undoubtedly einkorn they were stirring over the campfire. Indeed, it’s that old!

Okay yes, the morning habits of Adam and Eve are somewhat speculative, but wild grains of einkorn have been found in archaeological sites dating back 12,000 years or more. Evidence suggests that einkorn was the first grain to be domesticated. DNA fingerprinting points to Turkey around 7500 B.C. as the first cropping of the grain.

But by the end of the Bronze Age, it fell out of favor as other forms of wheat were found to have higher yields. And soon, einkorn was to be found only on small isolated farms here and there in Central Europe. No one wanted this genetically unique wheat any more.

So why the renewed interest in this ancient grain after millennia of neglect? For three simple reasons:

Nutrition

Einkorn has it all over modern wheat when it comes to nutrition. It has a higher protein content than modern wheat, and it offers 3-4 times more beta-carotene, twice the vitamin A, and four times the antioxidants lutein and riboflavin. Plus, it has been shown that einkorn retains more of its nutrients during the baking process than modern wheat does.

Gluten

Because einkorn has only 14 chromosomes (as opposed to modern wheat, which has 42) its gluten structure is radically different. Several studies suggest that the gluten in einkorn is more palatable for those who are allergic to wheat glutens, and that eventually it might be acceptable for use by celiac disease sufferers.

Taste

For those who enjoy robust grains, einkorn is a winner. It has a nutty flavor and rich texture that perfectly lends itself to pasta and dense breads.

So what’s not to love? Increased nutrition, greater gluten acceptance, and delicious flavor-you can’t go wrong. And though it may prove difficult to locate as yet, it’s well worth the effort.

Delicious discovery

I discovered einkorn thanks to the folks at Jovial Foods. At first, I was skeptical, but I tried some of their products and quickly discovered that I was wrong. I served their spaghetti with my favorite sauce, and it was a big hit. Everyone agreed that the pasta was a perfect blend of texture and flavor-not like the mushy, bland whole-grain pasta we’d all tried before. As for the cookies, well, there wasn’t a whole lot of sharing going on. I demolished an entire box myself!

make it!

Pitch Perfect Einkorn Pene Recipe This protein-packed pasta dish comes together in minutes.

Sweet Einkorn Shortcakes recipe This super-indulgent dessert is the perfect introduction to ancient wheat.

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