name = Spelt

image_width = 250px
regnum = Plantae
divisio = Magnoliophyta
classis = Liliopsida
ordo = Poales
familia = Poaceae
genus = "Triticum"
species = "T. spelta"
binomial = "Triticum spelta"
binomial_authority = L.

Spelt ("Triticum spelta") is a hexaploid species of wheat. 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 has found a new market as a health food. Spelt is sometimes considered a subspecies of the closely related species common wheat ("T. aestivum"), in which case its botanical name is considered to be "Triticum aestivum" subsp. "spelta".


Spelt has a complex history. It is a hexaploid wheat species known from genetic evidence to have originated as a hybrid of a domesticated tetraploid wheat such as emmer wheat and the wild goat-grass "Aegilops tauschii". This hybridisation must have taken place in the Near East because this is where "Ae. tauschii" grows, and it must have taken place prior to the appearance of bread wheat ("Triticum aestivum", a hexaploid free-threshing derivative of spelt) in the archaeological record c. 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 event between emmer and bread wheat. Recent DNA evidence supports an independent origin for European spelt, through this hybridisation. [cite web
url = http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=14564390&dopt=Abstract
accessmonthday = February 14
accessyear = 2006
title = About the origin of European spelt (Triticum spelta L.): allelic differentiation of the HMW Glutenin B1-1 and A1-2 subunit genes.
publisher = PubMed
year = 2004
author = Blatter RH, Jacomet S, Schlumbaum A
] However whether spelt has two separate origins in Asia and Europe, or single origin in the Near East, is currently unresolved. [cite paper
author=Blatter,R.H. et al. | title=About the origin of European spelt (Triticum spelta L.): allelic differentiation of the HMW Glutenin B1-1 and A1-2 subunit genes| date=2004 | format=html | url = http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=retrieve&db=pubmed&list_uids=14564390&dopt=abstract
] [cite paper
author=Ehsanzadeh, Parviz | title=Agronomic and Growth Characteristics of Spring Spelt Compared to Common Wheat| date=1999 | format=pdf | url = http://library2.usask.ca/theses/available/etd-10212004-001220/

Early history

The earliest archaeological evidence of spelt is from the fifth millennium BC in Transcaucasia, north of the Black Sea. However, the most abundant and best-documented archaeological evidence of spelt is in Europe.cite paper | author=Cubadda, Raimondo and Marconi, Emanuele| title=Spelt Wheat in Pseudocereals and less Common cereals: Grain Properties and utilization Potential (eds. Belton, Peter S.; Taylor, John R.N.) | date=2002 | format=html | url = http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN3540429395&id=NRMdXx8fC8kC&dq=Pseudocereals+and+less+Common+cereals:+Grain+Properties+and+utilization+Potential] Remains of spelt have been found in some later Neolithic sites (2500–1700 BC) in Central Europe. [cite paper
author=Akeret, Ö.| title=Plant remains from a Bell Beaker site in Switzerland, and the beginnings of Triticum spelta (spelt) cultivation in Europe | date=2005 | format=html | url = http://china.springerlink.com/content/j0453274uw744tw9/?p=9a73f75a245d448a844fbf12f99e7740&pi=0
] 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 also 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. [cite paper | author=Nesbitt, Mark | title=Wheat evolution: integrating archaeological and biological evidence | date=2001 | Format=PDF | url=http://www.rbgkew.org.uk/scihort/ecbot/papers/nesbitt2001wheat.pdf.] Nevertheless, as a "Triticum" species, spelt is still forbidden for use during the Jewish holiday of Passover, except in the form of matzo.

Later history

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 in almost all those areas in which it was still grown by bread wheat. As spelt requires fewer fertilizers, the organic farming movement made it more popular again towards the end of the century.


Spelt contains about 57.9 percent carbohydrates (excluding 9.2 percent fibre), 17.0 percent protein and 3.0 percent fat, as well as dietary minerals and vitamins. [cite paper
author=Parr RM et al. | title= Contributions of calcium and other dietary components to global variations in bone mineral density in young adults | date=2002 | format=pdf | url = http://www.unu.edu/unupress/food/fnb23-3s-5.pdf
] As it contains a moderate amount of gluten, it is suitable for baking. In Germany, the unripe spelt grains are dried and eaten as "Grünkern", which literally means "green grain".

Spelt is closely related to common wheat, and is not suitable for people with celiac disease. Some people with wheat allergy or wheat intolerance tolerate spelt.


Spelt flour is becoming more easily available, being sold in British supermarkets since 2007. [ [http://www.dovesfarm.co.uk/organic/info-spelt.htm Information from Spelt flour producer] ] Spelt is also sold in the form of a coarse pale bread, similar in colour and in texture to light rye breads but with a slightly sweet and nutty flavour. Biscuits and crackers are also produced, but are more likely to be found in a specialty bakery or health food store than in a regular grocer's shop.

Spelt pasta is also available in health food stores and speciality shops.

The raw grain when chewed releases trace amounts of gluten giving the mass a slight resilience, not unlike gumFact|date=February 2007 (whereas wheat becomes a sticky glutinous mass, similar to thick jam).Fact|date=February 2007 The texture is slightly crunchy. The nutty flavour is more intense than it is in most breads and some prefer the raw substance to the baked goods.

Dutch jenever makers distill a special kind of gin made with spelt as a curiosity gin marketed for connoisseurs. Beer brewed from spelt is sometimes seen in Bavaria. [ [http://www.germanbeerinstitute.com/Dinkelbier.html Dinkelbier ] ]

Spelt matzo is baked in Israel for Passover and is available in some American grocery stores.

Literature references

While today spelt is merely a specialty crop, its popularity as a peasants' staple food of the past has been attested in literature works that still enjoy currency. Although today's Russian-speaking children may not know what exactly spelt is, they may have heard Pushkin's well-rhymed story of workman Balda asking his employer the priest "to feed me boiled spelt" ("есть же мне давай варёную полбу").


*cite book | author=Padulosi, Stefano, Karl Hammer and J. Heller | title=Hulled Wheats. Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 4. Proceedings of the First International Workshop on Hulled Wheats 21–22 July 1995, Castelvecchio Pascoli, Tuscany, Italy | year=1996 | url=http://www.ipgri.cgiar.org/publications/pubfile.asp?ID_PUB=54
*cite book|title=Domestication of plants in the Old World|author=Zohary, Daniel and Maria Hopf|location=Oxford | publisher=Oxford University Press|id=ISBN 0-19-850356-3|year=2000

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Spelt — (Spelz) Sm Dinkel per. Wortschatz reg. (8. Jh.), mhd. spelte, spelze f., ahd. spelta, spelza f., as. spelta f Entlehnung. Wie ae. spelt entlehnt aus l. spelta f. Dieses scheint seinerseits ein Lehnwort aus dem Vorgänger von Spelze Getreidehülse… …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • Spelt — Spelt, Spelz: Die westgerm. Bezeichnung der Weizenart (mhd. spelte, spelze, ahd. spelta, spelza, niederl. spelt, ‹a›engl. spelt) gehört wohl zu der unter ↑ spalten behandelten Wortgruppe. Sie würde sich dann darauf beziehen, dass die Ähren beim… …   Das Herkunftswörterbuch

  • spelt — (n.) O.E. spelt, perhaps an early borrowing from L.L. spelta spelt (c.400, noted as a foreign word), which is perhaps ultimately from PIE root *spel to split, to break off (probably in reference to the splitting of its husks in threshing), which… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Spelt — Spelt, n. [AS. spelt, fr. L. spelta.] (Bot.) A species of grain ({Triticum Spelta}) much cultivated for food in Germany and Switzerland; called also {German wheat}. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • spelt — spelt1 [spelt] vt., vi. alt. pt. & pp. of SPELL2 spelt2 [spelt] n. [ME < OE < LL spelta < Gmc * speltō < IE base * (s)p(h)el , to split off > SPILL1] a primitive species (Triticum spelta) of wheat with grains that do not thresh… …   English World dictionary

  • Spelt — Spelt, imp. & p. p. of {Spell}. Spelled. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Spelt — Spelt, n. [See {Spalt}.] (Metal.) Spelter. [Colloq.] [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Spelt — Spelt, v. t. & i. [See {Spell} a splinter.] To split; to break; to spalt. [Obs.] Mortimer. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • spelt — [spelt] especially BrE the past tense and past participle of ↑spell …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • spelt — spelt·oid; spelt; …   English syllables

  • spelt — sb., en (en hvedeart), i sms. spelt , fx speltbrød …   Dansk ordbog

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