Spelt (Triticum spelta; Triticum dicoccum), also known as dinkel
wheat or hulled wheat, is a species of wheat cultivated since
approximately 5000 BC.
Spelt was an important staple in parts of
Europe from the Bronze Age
to medieval times; it now survives as a relict crop in Central Europe
and northern Spain, and has also found a new market as a 'health
Spelt is sometimes considered a subspecies of the closely
related species common wheat (Triticum aestivum), in which case its
botanical name is considered to be Triticum aestivum subsp. spelta. It
is a hexaploid wheat, which means it has six sets of chromosomes.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, spelt has gained widespread
popularity as a common wheat substitute for making artisanal breads,
pastas, and cereals.
Spelt, without and with husks
5 Literary references
6 See also
8 External links
Spelt has a complex history. It is a wheat species known from genetic
evidence to have originated as a naturally occurring hybrid of a
domesticated tetraploid wheat such as emmer wheat and the wild
goat-grass Aegilops tauschii. This hybridisation must have taken place
Near East because this is where
Aegilops tauschii grows, and it
must have taken place before the appearance of common or bread wheat
(Triticum aestivum, a hexaploid free-threshing derivative of spelt) in
the archaeological record about 8,000 years ago.
Genetic evidence shows that spelt wheat can also arise as the result
of hybridisation of bread wheat and emmer wheat, although only at some
date following the initial Aegilops–tetraploid wheat hybridisation.
The much later appearance of spelt in
Europe might thus be the result
of a later, second, hybridisation between emmer and bread wheat.
DNA evidence supports an independent origin for European spelt
through this hybridisation. Whether spelt has two separate origins
Asia and Europe, or single origin in the Near East, is currently
In Greek mythology spelt (ζειά [zeiá] in Greek) was a gift to the
Greeks from the goddess Demeter. The earliest archaeological evidence
of spelt is from the fifth millennium BC in Transcaucasia, north-east
of the Black Sea, though the most abundant and best-documented
archaeological evidence of spelt is in Europe. Remains of spelt
have been found in some later Neolithic sites (2500–1700 BC) in
Central Europe. During the Bronze Age, spelt spread widely in
central Europe. In the Iron Age (750–15 BC), spelt became a
principal wheat species in southern
Germany and Switzerland, and by
500 BC, it was in common use in southern Britain.
References to the cultivation of spelt wheat in Biblical times (see
matzo), in ancient
Egypt and Mesopotamia and in ancient Greece are
incorrect and result from confusion with emmer wheat.
In the Middle Ages, spelt was cultivated in parts of Switzerland,
Tyrol, and Germany.
Spelt was introduced to the
United States in the
1890s. In the 20th century, spelt was replaced by bread wheat in
almost all areas where it was still grown. The organic farming
movement revived its popularity somewhat toward the end of the
century, as spelt requires less fertilizer.
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
1,415 kJ (338 kcal)
Full USDA Nutrient Report
μg = micrograms • mg = milligrams
IU = International units
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for
In a 100 gram serving, uncooked spelt provides 338 calories and is an
excellent source (20% or more of the Daily Value) of protein, dietary
B vitamins and numerous dietary minerals (table).
Richest nutrient contents include manganese (143% DV), phosphorus (57%
DV) and niacin (46% DV). Cooking substantially reduces many nutrient
Spelt contains about 70% total carbohydrates, including
11% as dietary fibre, and is low in fat (table).
Spelt contains gluten and is therefore suitable for baking, but this
component also makes it unsuitable for people with gluten-related
disorders, such as celiac disease, non-celiac gluten
sensitivity, and wheat allergy. In comparison to hard red winter
wheat, spelt has a more soluble protein matrix characterized by a
higher gliadin:glutenin ratio.
Germany and Austria, spelt loaves and rolls (Dinkelbrot) are widely
available in bakeries as is spelt flour in supermarkets. The unripe
spelt grains are dried and eaten as
Grünkern ("green grain").
Jenever makers distill with spelt.
Beer brewed from spelt is
sometimes seen in Bavaria and Belgium and spelt is distilled
to make vodka in Poland.
Spelt is currently a specialty crop, but its popularity in the past as
a peasants' staple food has been attested in literature. Although
today's Russian-speaking children perhaps do not know exactly what
polba (spelt) looks or tastes like, they may recognize the word as
something that can be made into porridge, having heard Pushkin's
well-rhymed story in which the poor workman Balda asks his employer
the priest "to feed me boiled spelt" ("есть же мне давай
варёную полбу"). In Horace's Satire 2.6 (late 31–30
BC), which ends with the story of the Country Mouse and the City
Mouse, the country mouse eats spelt at dinner while serving his city
guest finer foods.
Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri,
Pietro della Vigna
Pietro della Vigna appears as
a suicide in Circle VII, ring ii, Canto XIII of the Inferno. Pietro
describes the fate awaiting souls guilty of suicide to Dante the
Pilgrim and Virgil. According to Pietro, the soul of the suicide grows
into a wild tree and is tormented by harpies that feast upon its
leaves. Pietro likens the initial growth and transformation of the
soul of the suicide to the germination of a grain of spelt (Inferno
Spelt is also mentioned in the Bible. The seventh plague in
Exodus, did not damage the harvest of wheat and spelt, as these were
"late crops". Ezekiel 4:9 says: "Take thou also unto thee wheat,
and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and spelt, and put
them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof ...", though as noted
above this is presumably a mistranslation and should be "emmer". It is
mentioned again in Isaiah 28:25: "...and put in the wheat in rows and
the barley in the appointed place and the spelt in the border
Plant List: A Working List of All
Plant Species, retrieved 11
^ Zohar Amar, Five Types of Grain: Historical, Halachic, and
Conceptual Aspects (Ḥameshet Mine Dagan), Har Bracha 2011, pp.
45–48 ISBN 9659081871 (Hebrew).
^ a b "Triticum spelta". Germplasm Resources Information Network
Agricultural Research Service
Agricultural Research Service (ARS),
United States Department
of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 11 December 2017.
^ Smithers, Rebecca (15 May 2014). "
Spelt flour 'wonder grain' set for
a price hike as supplies run low". The Guardian, London, UK. Retrieved
30 January 2017.
^ a b Blatter, R.H.; Jacomet, S.; Schlumbaum, A. (January 2004).
"About the Origin of European
Spelt ( Triticum spelta L.): Allelic
Differentiation of the HMW
Glutenin B1-1 and A1-2 Subunit Genes".
Theoretical and Applied Genetics. 108 (2): 360–367.
doi:10.1007/s00122-003-1441-7. PMID 14564390.
^ Ehsanzadeh, Parviz (December 1998). "Agronomic and Growth
Characteristics of Spring
Spelt Compared to Common
(PDF). ecommons.usask.ca. National Library of Canada. Retrieved 7
^ a b c Cubadda, Raimondo; Marconi, Emanuele (2002). "
Pseudocereals and Less Common Cereals: Grain Properties and
Utilization Potential (eds. Belton, Peter S.; Taylor, John
^ Akeret, Ö. (2005). "
Plant Remains From a Bell Beaker Site in
Switzerland, and the Beginnings of Triticum spelta (spelt) Cultivation
^ Nesbitt, Mark (2001). "
Wheat Evolution: Integrating Archaeological
and Biological Evidence" (PDF). .
^ "National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28, Full
Report (All Nutrients): 20141, Spelt, Cooked". United States
Department of Agriculture. 2015. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
^ a b Tovoli F., Masi C., Guidetti E.; et al. (March 16, 2015).
"Clinical and Diagnostic Aspects of
Gluten Related Disorders". World
Journal of Clinical Cases. 3 (3): 275–284.
doi:10.12998/wjcc.v3.i3.275. PMC 4360499 .
PMID 25789300. CS1 maint: Explicit use of et al. (link) CS1
maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
^ Wieser H. (2001). "Comparative Investigations of
Wheat Species". European Food Research and Technology.
213 (3): 183–186. doi:10.1007/s002170100365.
^ Schober, T.J., Bean, S.R., Kuhn, M. (2006). "
Gluten Proteins from
Spelt (Triticum aestivum ssp. spelta) Cultivars: A Rheological and
Size-Exclusion High-Performance Liquid Chromatography Study" (pdf).
Cereal Science. 44 (2): 161–173.
doi:10.1016/j.jcs.2006.05.007. Retrieved 21 November 2013. CS1
maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
^ Kohajdová, Z., Karovičová, J. (2008). "Nutritional Value and
Baking Applications of
Spelt Wheat" (pdf). Acta Scientiarum Polonorum.
Technologia Alimentaria. 7 (3): 5–14. Retrieved 21 November
2013. CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
^ John N. Peragine (30 November 2010). The Complete Guide to Growing
Your Own Hops, Malts, and Brewing Herbs. Atlantic Publishing Company.
p. 128. Retrieved 1 September 2012.
^ Dinkelbier, German
Beer Institute, retrieved November 2009.
^ Den Mulder, beer from Huisbrouwerij Den Tseut in Oosteeklo,
retrieved September 2013.
^ Кристина Смирнова (24 March 2009). "Что
такое полба?". Shkolazhizni.ru.
^ "Александр Сергеевич Пушкин. Сказка о
попе и о работнике его Балде". lib.ru.
^ Exodus 9:31.
Wikispecies has information related to Triticum spelta
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Spelt.
Look up spelt in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Recipe: 2000-year-old bread from Pompeii with Spelt
Wheat pools in Canada
Plant parts and their uses
Berries or groats
As an ingredient
Wheat germ oil
Associated human diseases
non-celiac gluten sensitivity
Tell Abu Hureyra
Cereals and pseudocereals
Neolithic founder crops
History of agriculture
Tell Abu Hureyra
Crop wild relative
Plant List: kew-449032