All About Einkorn Wheat

Einkorn is one of the oldest, most nutritious wheat varieties found today; it’s easy to digest, incredible healthy, and a delicious alternative to more processed grains.


| November 2016



Homemade bread

Einkorn, being nonhybridized, is both easy on the digestive tract and nutritionally dense.

Photo by Shanna and Tim Mallon

The wheat of our ancestors, einkorn is healthier than many grains today because it has never been hybridized. This makes it naturally good for you and digestible even to those with wheat sensitivities. In The Einkorn Cookbook (Fair Winds Press, 2015), Shanna and Tim Mallon show readers how to easily incorporate this ancient wheat into your kitchen, both as a whole grain and a flour. Check it out for tasty recipes from breakfast to dessert!

You can purchase this book from the Mother Earth Living store: The Einkorn Cookbook.

A Brief History of Einkorn

Throughout history wheat has been cultivated and hybridized to increase yield, increase disease resistance, and develop desirable baking characteristics, such as increased elasticity in the gluten. As new varieties of wheat with these characteristics took over the market, the original einkorn wheat became less well-known.

The hybridization of wheat changed the genetic makeup of what was originally a simpler, more digestible version of the grain. Einkorn, for example, is what’s called a diploid (i.e., made up of two complete sets of chromosomes) and contains fourteen total chromosomes, while later varieties of wheat — such as emmer, kamut, and durum — contain twenty-eight. More modern varieties such as spelt, hard red wheat, and soft white wheat contain even more still, at forty-two chromosomes. This is significant for a few reasons: First, the more the genetic structure of the grain has been manipulated, the more likely that its proteins — such as the gluten and gliadins found in gluten — can cause intestinal distress. In the 2010 Springer Theoretical and Applied Genetics, for example, it was shown that modern wheat breeding practices may have led to an increased exposure to celiac disease epitopes (the part of the molecule that causes the body to attack it via an antibody). Second, the genetic changes that wheat has undergone have affected the way the plant takes up nutrients from the soil, resulting in less nutrients in the final product. This means that einkorn, being nonhybridized, has the distinct advantage of being both easier on the digestive tract, and more nutritionally dense.

Why Cook with Einkorn

There are many reasons we love cooking and baking with einkorn. First, as we’ve talked about, einkorn is the most nutritious of the wheat varieties and easier to digest than others. It naturally contains more protein and has a different gluten structure than other varieties of wheat. It is rich in beta-carotene, vitamin A, lutein, and riboflavin. What’s more, it lacks the D genome present in modern wheat, a factor that is of note since significant, potentially harmful structural changes to the gluten in wheat were introduced through the D genome. In addition, a 2006 study in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology showed einkorn lacked toxicity from one component of gluten, based on biopsies of the intestinal lining of celiac patients.

Beside its health advantages, we simply enjoy the taste of einkorn (and other ancient and heirloom varietals). Growing up, neither of us was exposed to many different types of grains or seeds, and now we find that these ancient and heirloom varieties are not only some of the most nutritious options available on the market, but also they are incredibly delicious. By using these varieties, we can better nourish our families, raise awareness about food diversity, and help preserve traditional foodways for future generations.





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