The Spiel on Spelt



You know the spiel about whole grains, right? But do you know the spiel about spelt? Pardon my German, but in honor of my ancestors from Deutschland, I take great pride in "spieling" about spelt; it's one of my favorite grains. In fact, it's so good it was recognized in ancient times as a fundamental health food brimming with exceptional qualities. Let me explain.Spelt is a distant cousin to our modern day varieties of wheat. According to Wikipedia, its earliest archaeological evidence comes from an area north of the Black Sea during the fifth millennium BC. However, the most abundant and best documented evidence says it originated in Europe where its popularity eventually spread to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and Spain. In the German language the word for spelt is "Dinkel." It's a fact that dinkel was so important that towns were named in its honor - there's Dinklehausen and Dinkelsbühl. These days, unripe spelt is dried and eaten as Grünkern, which means "green grain."


St. Hildegard von Bingen was a visionary, mystic, musician and herbalist who taught natural ways of bringing balance to body, mind and spirit during the 12th century in Germany. She taught of the many gifts of consuming spelt including its ability to confer a happy mind, a joyful spirit and a cheerful disposition. Spelt lies at the heart of her teachings on good nutrition as she believed it to be the best and most easily digestible grain one could eat. Even today her teachings on spelt remain highly regarded.European immigrants originally brought spelt to the U.S. where it was grown until 1900 when it was replaced by newer hybrids of wheat that produced higher yields and were easier to harvest and process. Recently, spelt has regained popularity. It has a wonderful nutty flavor, a delicate taste and a good nutritional profile. In fact, spelt has more protein than conventional wheat and is often better tolerated by wheat-sensitive individuals. (Spelt does have gluten, though, so it is not appropriate for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.) Spelt delivers fiber, a complex of B-vitamins, phytonutrients and important minerals such as iron.


To cook whole spelt, soak overnight in water to cover. Drain and rinse. Cover with fresh water and simmer, covered, for about an hour. Longer cooking is fine too and results in a soft, split-open kernel, which is makes a great bowl of hot breakfast cereal. When baking with spelt flour, remember that because spelt is more water soluble than regular wheat, it's a good idea to use a little less water or liquid in your recipe.Here are some ideas to get you going:


Because spelt contains less of a compound found in gluten called gliadin, it may be easier to digest than wheat for sensitive people. However, it DOES contain gluten and is NOT okay for anyone with celiac disease or any gluten sensitivity or allergy.Have you tried spelt? Got a favorite recipe? I would love to know.

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