Excerpts from: “Alternative Wheat Cereals as Food Grains: Einkorn, Emmer, Spelt, Kamut, and Triticale”, by G.F. Stallknecht, K.M. Gilbertson, and J.E. Ranney
Origin and Taxonomy
Wild einkorn Triticum boeoticum includes both the single grain T. aegilopoides and the two grain T. thaoudar and T. urartu. Cultivated einkorn is T. monococcum, and like wild einkorn has the genome constitution AA.
The wild and cultivated einkorn are differentiated by the brittleness of the rachis. The rachis of wild einkorn is brittle and the spikelets readily disarticulate when mature, whereas the rachis of cultivated einkorn is less fragile and remains intact until thrashed.
Einkorn became widely distributed throughout the Near East, Transcaucasia, the Mediterranean region, southwestern Europe, and the Balkans, and was one of the first cereals cultivated for food. Harlan (1981), cites information suggesting that wild einkorn grain was harvested in the late Paleolithic and early Mesolithic Ages, 16,000-15,000 BC.
Confirmed finds of wild grain remains have been dated to the early Neolithic (Stone Age) 10,000 BC. (Helmqvist 1955; Zohary and Hopf 1993). Cultivated einkorn continued to be a popular cultivated crop during the Neolithic and early Bronze Age 10,000-4,000 BC giving way to emmer by the mid-Bronze Age.
Agronomy and Production
Historically, einkorn was cultivated in cool environments on marginal agricultural land through the Mid-east and southwestern Europe.
Einkorn selections produced protein and yield equal to or higher than barley and durum wheat when grown under adverse growing conditions (Vallega 1979).
Eighty einkorn PI accessions from (NSGGRF) have been evaluated for yield, straw characteristics, and date of heading at the Southern Agricultural Research Center, Huntley, Montana (SARC) from 1992 to the present.
The protein content of einkorn when threshed in the hull varied from 10% to 26% higher, and the grain from 50% to 75% higher than the protein content (12.5% to 13.5%) of the hard red wheats. Agronomic production practices for spring grains would be applicable to einkorn, which has a tendency to mature later than spring wheat.
Einkorn may be most suitable for cropping in lower moisture environments similar to the northern Great Plains area of Montana. The einkorn accessions tested had only moderate straw strength, averaged 109 cm in height, and would be susceptible to lodging in high moisture environments.
Marketing and Utilization
…Recent studies in Europe and Canada emphasized the nutritional quality of einkorn. Grain protein of einkorn accessions and progeny of einkorn crossings were consistently significantly higher than modern wheats (Vallega 1992). The data also indicate that given the significant increase in yields of the progeny and the higher grain protein, progeny lines produced significantly more protein/ha than the modern wheats.
The composition and nutritional characteristics of a selected spring einkorn were compared to spelt and hard red spring wheat grown in Canada (Abdel-Aal et al. 1995). The einkorn accession was considered more nutritious than the hard red wheat, based on the higher level of protein, crude fat, phosphorous, potassium, pyridoxine, and beta-carotene.
The gluten of the einkorn accession had a gliadin to glutenin ratio of 2:1 compared to 0.8:1 for durum and hard red wheat.
Flour and dough characteristics of gluten from 12 einkorn accessions were compared to durum and common wheats (D’Egidio et al. 1993). The einkorn flours were characterized by high protein, high ash, a very high carotene content, and small flour particle size when compared to the modern bread wheats.
Dough characteristics of the einkorn accessions were significantly inferior to the modern wheats. The gluten strength was similar to that of soft wheats, but remained sticky, with a low water retention capacity.
While breads made from einkorn were considered to be inferior to emmer or spelt breads (LeClerc et al. 1918), Bond (1989) states that breads made from einkorn in France had a light rich taste which left common bread wheat products tasteless and insipid by comparison. Bond also indicated that similar to ancient civilizations the einkorn grains were used in various food dishes such as soups, salads, casseroles, and sauces.
The consideration that flour from T. monococcum may be non toxic to individuals with celiac disease (Favret et al. 1984, 1987) as cited by D’Egidio et al. (1993), and Abdel-Aal et al. (1995) suggest that given the nutritional advantage of einkorn and possible consumption by individuals allergic to common wheats, an increased interest will be given to the diploid wheats.
Excerpts from: “Re-discovering ancient wheat varieties as functional foods”, by Raymond Cooper
Archeological findings show that wheat first occurred in parts of Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, the Levant, Israel, Egypt and Ethiopia.1 Domesticated Einkorn wheat in Turkey dates back to 9,000 B.C. Cultivation of wheat began to spread beyond the Fertile Crescent after about 8000 BC. Jared Diamond in his excellent book, “Guns Germs and Steel”, traces the spread of cultivated emmer wheat starting in the “Fertile Crescent” about 8500 BC, reaching Greece, Cyprus and India by 6500 BC, Egypt shortly thereafter, followed by introductions in Germany and Spain by 5000 BC.
Some wheat species are diploid, with two sets of chromosomes, but many are stable polyploids, with four sets of chromosomes (tetraploid) or six (hexaploid). For example, einkorn wheat (T. monococcum) is diploid (AA, two complements of seven chromosomes, 2n = 14). Most tetraploid wheats (e.g. emmer and durum wheat) are derived from wild emmer, T. dicoccoides. Wild emmer (T. dicoccoides) grows wild in the fertile crescent of the Near East. It is a tetraploid wheat formed by the hybridization of two diploid wild grasses, Triticum urartu (closely related to wild einkorn (T. boeoticum), and as yet unidentified Aegilops species related to A. searsii or A. speltoides. The hybridization that formed wild emmer (AABB) occurred in the wild, long before domestication, and was driven by natural selection.
Hexaploid wheats evolved in the farmers’ fields. Either domesticated emmer or durum wheat, when hybridized with another form of wild diploid grass (A. tauschii) makes the hexaploid wheats, known as spelt wheat and bread wheat. These have three sets of paired chromosomes, three times as many as in diploid wheat.
Einkorn wheat (from German Einkorn, literally “single grain”) can refer either to the wild species of wheat, Triticum boeoticum or to the domesticated form, Triticum monococcum. The wild and domesticated forms are either considered separate species, as here, or as subspecies of T. monococcum. Einkorn is a diploid species of hulled wheat, with tough glumes (‘husks’) that tightly enclose the grains. The cultivated form is similar to the wild, except that the ear stays intact when ripe and the seeds are larger.
Einkorn wheat was one of the earliest cultivated forms of wheat, alongside emmer wheat (T. dicoccum). Grains of wild einkorn have been found in Epi-Paleolithic sites of the Fertile Crescent. It was first domesticated approximately 7500 BC. Evidence from DNA finger-printing suggests einkorn was domesticated near in southeast Turkey. Its cultivation decreased in the Bronze Age, and today it is a relict crop that is rarely planted, though it has found a new market as a health food. It remains as a local crop, often for bulgur (cracked wheat) or as animal feed, in mountainous areas of France, Morocco, the former Yugoslavia, Turkey and other countries. It often survives on poor soils where other species of wheat fail.
Wheat protein (and the wheat starch) is easily digested by nearly 99% of the human population. However, several screening studies in Europe, South America, Australasia, and the USA suggest that approximately 0.5–1% of these populations may have undetected celiac disease. Celiac disease is a condition that is caused by an adverse immune system reaction to gliadin, a gluten protein found in wheat and some varieties of barley and rye. When exposed to gliadin, the enzyme tissue transglutaminase modifies the protein, and the immune system cross-reacts with the bowel tissue, causing an inflammatory reaction. This interaction leads to “flattening of the lining” of the small intestine leading to interference with nutrient absorption. The only effective treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet. While the disease is caused by a reaction to wheat proteins, it is not the same as wheat allergy.
In contrast with more modern forms of wheat, there is evidence that the gliadin protein of einkorn may not be as toxic to sufferers of celiac disease. It has yet to be recommended in any gluten-free diet. Einkorn wheat does contain gluten but is different from most wheat in that it contains only 14 chromosomes as opposed to 28 in emmer or 42 in modern wheat. This alters the gluten structure which may be why it does not affect those with gluten intolerance as much as other wheat.
Excerpt from: “Compositional and Nutritional Characteristics of Spring Einkorn and Spelt Wheats”, by E.-S. M. ABDEL-AAL, P. HUCL, and F. W. SOSULSKI
The allergenicity of bread wheats is associated with the gluten- forming proteins in the storage proteins of the endosperm, specifically gliadin proteins. However, T monococcum was found to be nontoxic for individuals having celiac disease (Auricchio et al 1982). Therefore, the total gluten content and composition in the wheat, especially in the endosperm flour proteins, and the ratio of gliadin to glutenin (G/G) was of interest in the nutritional evaluation of the wheat accessions. In addition, gliadin proteins have quite different amino acid compositions from glutenin proteins in that they are relatively rich in glutamic acid and proline, whereas glutenins are rich in lysine. Consequently, the G/G ratio may reflect the concentrations of these amino acids in wheat proteins or their peptide digests.
Again, einkorn and spelt flours were significantly higher in protein content than was common Hard Red Spring (HRS) flour, whereas the durum and spelt were particularly low in total protein. Wet and dry gluten yields from the flours were particularly high for the spelt, whereas gluten yields from einkorn were particularly low.
However, the gluten content constitutes about 77% of total flour proteins and was similar in all wheat species. The gliadin to glutenin ratio for einkorn proteins was 2:1 as compared to 1:1 for spelt and common HRS proteins and 0.8:1 for durum. Based on the current study, einkorn showed a distinct gluten composition and G/G ratio that was significantly different and higher than that of the other wheat species.
In general, the einkorn accession was more nutritious, having higher levels of protein, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, and pyridoxine. In addition, einkorn proteins showed a low gluten yield and 2:1 ratio of gliadin to glutenin.
Excerpt fromImmunogenicity of monococcum wheat in celiac patients, by Gianfrani, C., et al.
BACKGROUND: Research is intense to find wheat of low or null toxicity for patients with celiac disease (CD). Among candidates, there are diploid wheat species.
OBJECTIVE: We compared the immunological properties of 2 lines of diploid monococcum wheat (Triticum monococcum ssp. monococcum), Monlis and ID331, with those of common wheat (Triticum aestivum).
DESIGN: Interferon-γ production and the proliferation of intestinal gliadin-specific T cell lines and clones were measured as evidence of T cell activation by peptic and tryptic (PT) digests of gliadins from 2 monococcum lines. Furthermore, organ cultures of jejunal biopsies from 28 CD patients were set up to assess the effects of PT gliadin on innate and adaptive immune response by using immunohistochemistry.
RESULTS: Monlis and ID331 induced interferon-γ production and proliferation in celiac mucosal T cells. In organ cultures, Monlis PT digest induced a significant increase of IL-15 epithelial expression and crypt enterocyte proliferation, whereas ID331 had no effect. Both monococcum lines caused intraepithelial T cell infiltration and lamina propria T cell activation.
CONCLUSIONS: Our data show that the monococcum lines Monlis and ID331 activate the CD T cell response and suggest that these lines are toxic for celiac patients. However, ID331 is likely to be less effective in inducing CD because of its inability to activate the innate immune pathways.