With the rise of Islam, the crop diffused rapidly throughout the Middle East, the Maghreb of North Africa, and Muslim Spain. In some parts of the Muslim Mediterranean, durum was the only wheat grown. New varieties appeared in the Maghreb, Yemen and Central Asia. The wheat was also grown by Muslims during their habitation of medieval Southern Italy, particularly at Lucera during the thirteenth century. Durum was amongst the agricultural products that were exported from the Muslim world to the West.
Several medieval Muslim authors referred to the grain, noting it for its durability:
In his book, The government of Kings, Ibn Zafir [1117-1216] reports that the wheat of Maghrib could be stored for eighty years in silos, and then sown. the long period of storage increased its purity and quality.
After the Mongol invasions, many Persian and Turkic recipes from the Muslim world were adapted in Chinese cuisine, some of which included durum as an ingredient. An example is the paste of gullach, today produced from beans, which was originally made from durum.
When ground as fine as flour, it can be used for macaroni, pasta and bread. In the Middle East it is used for flat round breads, and in Europe and elsewhere it can be used for pizza, torte etc. It is not, however, good for cakes, which are made from soft wheat to prevent toughness.
The use of wheat to produce pasta was described as early as the tenth century by Ibn Wahshīya of Cairo. The Arabs called the product itrīya, from which Italian sources derived the term tria (or aletria in the case of Spanish sources) during the fifteenth century.
Another type of pasta, al-fidawsh (called "dry pasta"), was popular in al-Andalus. From there it was transmitted to Christian Spain and frequently appears in Hispano-Muslim cookbooks. From "al-fidawsh" was derived the Spanish word for noodles, fideos, and the Italian fidelli or fidellini.
The cultivation of durum generates greater yield than other wheats in areas of low precipitation (300-500mm). Good yields can be obtained by irrigation, but this is rarely done. In the first half of the twentieth century the crop was widely grown in Russia. Durum is one of the most important food crops in West Asia. Although the variety of the wheat there is diverse, it is not extensively grown there, and thus must be imported. Durum is grown widely in the northeastern regions, as well as the "desert" regions (i.e. Arizona, New Mexico and California) of the United States. West Amber Durum produced in Canada is used mostly as semolina/pasta, but some is also exported to Italy for bread production.
In the Middle East and North Africa, local bread-making accounts for half the consumption of durum. Some flour is even imported. On the other hand, many countries in Europe produce durum in commercially significant quantities.
|Area under cultivation and production of durum wheat|
|Region||Area (1000 ha)||Production (1000 tonnes)|
To produce bread, durum wheat is ground into flour. The flour is mixed with water to produce dough. The quantities mixed vary, depending on the acidity of the mixture. The dough is fermented for hours and then mixed with yeast and lukewarm water. The quality of the bread produced depends on viscoelastic properties of gluten, protein content and protein composition.