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Originating in the Fertile Crescent, spelt is now enjoyed by consumers everywhere. One of the original seven grains appearing in the Bible, spelt has literally been harvested for thousands of years.
Spelten cakes prepared for the journey out of Egypt sustained Moses and the Children of Israel; Roman soldiers carried it with them as a integral source of sustenance while on tour, and immigrants transported seeds into new lands around the world protecting them as they would a valued possession.
In Europe, spelt remains the most sought after grain. The people of southern Germany refer to it as dinkel. An important German crop, it thrives in this mountainous area because of its altitude and climate.
For Germans, this is THE grain of choice, and in Italy, the berries (known as farro) are a favored ingredient in countless gourmet dishes.
Cultivation of this once widespread grain remained popular until the 19th century when spelt fields were replaced by wheat crops.
Advances in technology and modern farming were the reason for grain’s fall from grace in the agricultural sector, for no other reason than wheat could be harvested in a single process, whereas spelt requires the extra step of removing each nugget from its hearty outer husk.
Economically, wheat was a better choice for the farmer, and a change that seems to have been easily accepted by the consumer. The wheat crop added to the farmer’s pocketbook because it was easier to grow and harvest; it added to the consumer’s pocketbook because it was cheaper to purchase.
Wheat was a win-win situation for everyone, but unfortunately wheat will never replace spelt in either taste or nutrition.
Boasting a sweet and nutty flavor, the grain is as nutritious as it is tasty. Higher in nutritional value than wheat, splet is also higher in water solubility, which aids in digestion.
Its naturally occurring amino acids build protein and work as building blocks to protect our cell membranes and muscles. The berries contain high amounts of protein (three and a half ounces of grains contain eleven and a half grams of protein), are low in phytic acids, and are an invaluable dietary source of nutrients, especially for those with wheat allergies.
Take note that the berries do contain small amounts of gluten and should be avoided by those with Celiac Disease.
High in fiber, spelt promotes activity in the intestines by surrounding unwanted substances (cholesterol for one) and flushing them out the body. It is also rich in silicic acid, which serves to strengthen body tissue and promote healthy hair, skin and nails.
Other health benefits include the grain’s high content of potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron, as well as the trace elements silicon, phosphorus and fluorine.
Hildegard von Bingen, also known as St. Hildegard (though never formally canonized), founded two convents, wrote music and plays, and authored two books, which were published around the year 1150. Together, these books are known as the Liber Subtilatum.
Considered a notable medieval herbalist, St. Hildegard promoted spelt coffee and porridge, regarding both of these preparations as irreplaceable items on the daily menu. She believed that the consumption of spelt balanced intestinal flora.
She also made note of its nourishing properties, considering them to be invaluable for neutralizing the functions of the intestines, crediting the grain as a remedy for both diarrhea and constipation. In the Liber Subtilatum texts Hildegard describes spelt’s benefits in the following way;
The spelt is the best of grains. It is rich and nourishing and milder than other grain. It produces a strong body and healthy blood to those who eat it and it makes the spirit of man light and cheerful. If someone is ill boil some spelt, mix it with egg and this will heal him like a fine ointment.
How Its Used
Available for purchase at most health food stores, markets, and even from Amazon, splet is available in three forms.
The first, spelt grains, may be used in the preparation of coffee. Brown roasted grains afford coffee an irresistible aroma, and dark roasted spelt grains are responsible for giving the brew its rich, lustrous color.
When combined, these grains create a delicious morning beverage that is simply prepared if you’re willing to put the time in and wait for it to reach its full flavor.
To begin, start by grounding your mixture. Four cups of brown roasted spelt blended with one cup of dark roasted grains may be ground ahead of time and stored in an airtight container.
To make coffee you won’t need any particular gift in the kitchen, but you will need patience. Although easily prepared, spelt coffee is a bit of a waiting game, but most certainly worth the wait.
To make the coffee, begin with four tablespoons of the ground mixture. Boil the grounds in two cups of water and strain, mix in another tablespoon of grounds and allow to cool overnight. The next morning (or when you have the time), boil the coffee mixture for another three to five minutes, strain, and add another tablespoon of grounds.
Repeat this process three times, refrigerate your supply, and warm with milk and honey when feeling the need for a comforting boost.
Your concoction will safely keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, although most people prefer to adjust the recipe and make enough for only one week at a time.
Another form of spelt available for purchase is a coarse grain.
When thrown into a food processor or grinder (leave on coarse grind setting), the berries may be soaked and cooked into a bowl of nut-flavored porridge. If you have a sweet tooth add some raisins or dates, and if nuttiness is your true passion………… complement the porridge’s nutty taste further by adding your “nut” of choice.
Foodal recommends Bob’s Red Mill Organic Spelt Berries. Bob’s is great organization with a commitment to quality.
Flour is third form of spelt available to consumers.Used in high nutrition baking, spelt flour can be used to replace other flours in most of your baked good recipes. It serves exceptionally well as a whole wheat replacement.
For me, this means using it according to individual taste. I’ve used the flour in my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and also to make my mother’s world-renowned apple cake.
Both of these experiments were successful, and when trying to bake a treat that is a true indulgence and healthy to boot, I am willing to try almost anything once. The flour kneads easily by hand or when using your favorite stand mixer.
The upside, because of the coarse and hardy hull, pesticides are not necessary for the grain’s cultivation. Checking the label is advised, but most spelt products are organic (disregard this claim if purchasing a spelt four combination).
On a final note, spelt is often used as a meat replacement. Veggie burgers are frequently made from soaked and softened berries (or in a combination with beans), are free from the unnecessary presence of fatty meat, not to mention that the difference in taste between spelt and ground beef isn’t overly discernible.
Whether you’ve chosen a vegetarian lifestyle, have been placed on a meat-restricted diet or are simply looking for new and better ways to improve your diet, spelt is a delicious option.
The Complete Guide to Natural Healing, International Masters Publishers, @ MCMXCIX