Tag Archives: what is spelt

What the Helt is Spelt? A Discussion About An Ancient Grain

Spelt is a type of flour that folks who are gluten intolerant use.  Surprisingly this flour has more gluten than your regular wheat flour.  Over 98% of the time, when I use flour, it’s spelt.  What is it’s history, why can some gluten intolerant people eat it, and how on earth do you use it?

History of Spelt

Spelt is an ancient grain.  Evidence exists that this grain has been used as early in the “fifth millennium BC.”  Let me translate that a bit.  The fifth millennium BC means 4000 BC.  In other words, over 6,000 years ago.  Yes, it is ancient, and we already know it’s a grain. Farmers in the United States used spelt as one of their main wheats until the 1980s.  At that time, spelt was replaced by common or bread wheat.

Common wheat, which accounts for 95% of the wheat grown in the USA, has been bred to have a shorter, more even stem.  This allows for greater ease when applying chemicals.  (This maybe our first hint as to why common wheat is not so great for us).

When the idea of going “organic” came about in the 60s, spelt made a rise back into semi-popularity, due the fact that spelt needs less fertilizer to be happy. Spelt stayed out of the main stream eye, allowing it to escape from the hybridization that common wheat experienced over the past few decades.

Why Is Spelt Easier for Some to Digest?

Common wheat has been hybridized to contain more gluten (albeit less gluten than spelt).  This gluten is a protein, as I discussed in previous post, and proteins are made of amino-acid chains.  These amino-acid structure can vary widely from one type of wheat to the next.  This means that your body can react differently from one type of gluten to the next.  Our bodies have had over 6,000 years to adapt to processing the unchanged spelt gluten proteins.  As common wheat and its structure keep on changing, we are not even one generation into adapting to process this gluten.

Anecdotally, my parents do not eat wheat or sugar.  Their diet has been wheat and sugar free for over a year, closer to two.  If they eat wheat, even if it’s hidden, their body lets them know.  Their reactions to eating common wheat is primarily sore and swollen joints and digestive upset.  When they tried eating some spelt, in the form of the bread I baked, they had none of the negative reactions they experience to common wheat products.  Please note, spelt is not part of their everyday diet, but rather a way for them to treat themselves to some bread without the immediate health repercussions.

How Do You use Spelt?

I have read a lot about how you have to modify your recipes in order to use spelt flour.  I’m not sure if you add more liquid or less liquid.  Maybe you kneed spelt dough for less time than other dough? Maybe there is a dance included?  I have not changed any recipes I’ve used.  The recipes that were designed for common wheat have worked fine for the uncommon spelt. I have done nothing different.  Please note: I dance while I bake, but that’s because of the awesome tunes I have playing in the background.  It has nothing to do with apeasing the Gods of Spelt.

So I encourage you to pick up some spelt and give it a try.  Let me know how it turns out!