What Is the Origin of Spelt?


Quick Answer

Spelt can be traced back almost 9,000 years to both the Middle East and southeast Europe. It is not known whether spelt originated concurrently in both locations, or if there was a single origin in the Middle East.

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Full Answer

Spelt was cultivated in many ancient civilizations in Europe and the Middle East, and traces of the ancient grain were also found in Britain during Stone Age excavations. Although a member of the same grain family as wheat, rye and barley, spelt has certain properties that differentiate it from the others, including its tough outer husk. It was used as one of the first grains to make bread. In the Middle Ages, it was even thought to heal illnesses. Spelt appeared in Greek mythology as a gift from the goddess Demeter. It is thought that the Greeks introduced the grain's cultivation process to much of the world. Mention of the ancient grain can also be found in the Old Testament and ancient Roman texts.

By the Middle Ages, spelt was being cultivated in Germany and Switzerland. The popular grain was first introduced to the United States in the 1890s. Spelt experienced a rapid decline in the 20th Century with the expansion of modern farming and was mostly replaced by wheat, which was easier to cultivate.

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