When you first look at the ancient grains einkorn and emmer, it’s easy to assume they’ve both never changed (been hybridized) and have a special heirloom quality about them. Yes, they’ve been around for thousands of years, but they also have significant differences. Let’s look at those differences as well as the health benefits of these heritage wheats.
Significant Differences Between Einkorn and Emmer
Both einkorn and emmer come from the “farro” family. When people use the term “farro,” they are most likely referring to one type of grain. However, “farro” refers to a family of three different grains: Einkorn, or farro picollo, emmer, or farro medio, and spelt, or farro grande. These heritage wheats are all ancient wheats, meaning they go back thousands upon thousands of years. Of these three, emmer and einkorn are two of the eight main crops to make up the original agriculture movement. Other crops were things like flax, barley and lentils.
Beyond these wheat varieties, there are many other forms of wheat that have remained strong such as durum wheat used in pasta. There’s also ancient korasan wheat (known as kamut) and turkey red wheat. The special role that einkorn and emmer play within the many different types of wheat has to do with origins. Einkorn is the ONLY wheat that has never been hybridized: it has 2 sets of 7 chromosomes each (male and female) which is 14 chromosomes total. While emmer is one of the oldest wheats, it has 4 sets of 7 chromosomes totaling 28. This indicates that it was crossed with another “grass” to make it’s unique wheat berries. Both korasan and turkey red wheat descended from emmer.
What is Einkorn Wheat
Our modern wheat is the most commonly used flour. People make everything from pasta, to cookies to cakes with their whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour. Few know that the common wheat flour they use everyday has little in common with the original wheat einkorn.
Einkorn is the mother of all wheat. It has never been hybridized and still contains only 14 chromosomes (7 male and 7 female). Hello Mamma! Compare this with the intense hybridization that’s given us modern varieties of wheat which now contain 42 chromosomes or more and you’ll see a big difference. What does this difference mean and how does farro compare? Let’s start at the beginning.
History of Einkorn Wheat
This whole grain flour, einkorn, is the oldest form of wheat known to man. To find the beginning of einkorn you must go back to the fertile crescent. This is where the ancient wheat varieties began and where agriculture also had it’s start. Einkorn actually means “single grain” or “single kernel” as the einkorn berries only produce one kernel per husk.
Einkorn didn’t remain the only wheat: other grains soon hybridized into several wheat varieties. Spelt most likely came about from the combination of emmer wheat and goat grass. It’s thought that einkorn married goat grass to create the wild emmer farro but einkorn was the original wheat. Einkorn is the only wheat known to man that’s NEVER been hybridized. Only in recent years has Einkorn, or triticum monococcum, been rediscovered.
In 1991, two hikers walking in the mountains along northern Italy, discovered a body sticking out from an ice glacier. A man’s body had been preserved in the ice for over 5000 years! Scientists later discovered the last meal of this ice man was none other than einkorn made into unleavened bread. Even more recently, einkorn DNA was discovered off a coast of Britain. This einkorn is thought to be much older than Otzi the Iceman.
The late Carla Bartolucci decided to get some of this rediscovered einkorn grain and try it out. After struggling with many health issues and gluten sensitivity, Carla’s daughter could finally eat wheat again! Already in the natural foods industry and living in Italy, Carla and her family built the company Jovial Foods. Jovial Foods grows einkorn and offers wheat berries, einkorn flour and many other einkorn products.
Einkorn Health Benefits
Though einkorn is much easier to digest for those with gluten sensitivities, it isn’t gluten free. Instead it has a very weak gluten structure. It also lacks the D chromosome that causes most sensitivities to wheat. This is great news for those who’ve missed out on wheat due to intolerance BUT unfortunately it still isn’t safe for those with celiac disease.
Nutritionally, Whole Einkorn Flour contains 213% more lutein, 55% more riboflavin and 76% more manganese than modern wheat. It also contains about 50% less Phytic acid. This is what binds up minerals in modern grains, making them hard to absorb. In fact, many of the anti-grain diets base much of their fear of grain on the presence of phytic acid. Einkorn’s nutrients, on the other hand are much EASIER to absorb and are anti-inflammatory.
Einkorn’s whole grain flour is also high in protein which makes it quite filling. You can find out more about einkorn Here.
How to Bake with Einkorn Flour
Einkorn wheat is my favorite of the ancient grains for several reasons. Digestibility (especially for those with gluten intolerance), nutrient density and flavor. Yes, einkorn has a very light and slightly nutty flavor compared to modern whole wheat flour. This has been a hit with my family.
I love sharing how to bake with Einkorn so lets start with some tips.
- Only use einkorn flour recipes (measurements will be different compared to modern wheat recipes). If you want to start einkorn baking it’s worth it to purchase a cookbook or bookmark your favorite recipe finds online.
- All purpose einkorn and whole wheat einkorn flours will also take different measurements so don’t try to copy an all-purpose einkorn flour recipe using whole grain flour or vice versa.
- Because the gluten structure is weak, einkorn won’t rise as easily. For breads, I like to “fold” the dough instead of “kneading” the dough. This allows air bubbles to stay in the dough and help it rise.
- Don’t give up! Be patient with yourself because it takes practice. Check out more helpful Tips HERE.
What is Emmer
Emmer Wheat or triticum dicoccum, came about as a hybrid of einkorn wheat. As I mentioned above, einkorn would’ve crossed with another grass and out grew emmer! It’s one of the first wheats known to man and the parent of many other hybrid wheats such as khorasan. The hybridization process also gave it more chromosomes than einkorn, but still many less than our modern day wheat. This has protected it’s ability to be more easily digested.
History of Emmer Wheat
Another heirloom wheat and one of the first cultivated in the near east. Emmer has been found in tombs, had Biblical references and been discovered in archeological digs (as this one which found Egyptian emmer). This is surely one of the first wheats. Considered “Pharoah’s wheat,” emmer farro was popular in Egypt and still grows wild in the countryside of the middle east. It must have made an impression on the Roman empire because Italy has also been using it as a main source of wheat for thousands of years. Still today, you can find this farro grown in Italy and used for pasta, in soups or in risotto.
It wasn’t until 1906 that emmer was reintroduced and bagan making a comeback here in the United States.
In 1906, Aaron Aaronsohn discovered Emmer growing in Rosh Pina – a small town in northern Israel. It became a focus of his, and he found that it was able to endure harsh climates. A few years later, he traveled to California and published a paper noting agricultural similarities between California and Palestine and recommending that cereal grains from Palestine be introduced to the United States.ancientgrains.com
Health Benefits of Emmer
One of the greatest nutritional benefits of emmer is it’s high magnesium content and just a half cup contains nearly a third of your daily magnesium requirements. It’s also high in selenium and niacin. As with einkorn, this heritage grain is low in gluten which makes it more easily digestible for gluten intolerant individuals.
Another great aspect of emmer (and einkorn too) is the low glycemic index. This means glucose is released at a slower rate. This results in blood sugar levels and insulin being more balanced. Studies such as this one point to ancient grains such as emmer and einkorn helping prevent type 2 diabetes.
Baking with Emmer Flour Vs. Einkorn Flour
While it’s being cultivated more than it was a hundred years ago, emmer is still only grown in small quantities unless you go to specific areas of the world. Emmer is known for it’s slightly nutty flavor and a chewy texture which makes it work well as a whole berry in soups or risotto. Because Emmer is also high in protein content, it creates a much denser loaf of bread. Perhaps this is why it’s used so often for pasta.
Even so, you can find some recipes for things such as emmer flour banana bread, pita bread or sourdough bread. I find einkorn is much easier to find recipes for at this point. perhaps because of the novelty as well as being so easily digested.
Which is Better? Einkorn or Emmer
Both of these ancient grains are wonderful for home use. Both take time and practice to master so be patient with yourself.
On the one hand, I love that emmer can be made into beautiful pasta and used with soups or stews. On the other, I love the benefits (plus non-hybridization), flavor and versatility of einkorn. It’s by far my favorite.
Best Place to Buy Einkorn or Emmer
Where do you buy Einkorn or Emmer? Here are a few options:
My absolute favorite place for purchasing bulk berries is from Einkorn.com or Ancient Grains.com. These are the same company and grown in Idaho. I’ve had EXCEPTIONAL service from them. They offer berries, whole wheat flours and all-purpose flours. Here’s how I mill my own flour with our mockmill.
If I need to have a bag of all-purpose einkorn flour on hand, I like to add it in with my monthly Azure Standard Order to get the free shipping. They also have emmer berries and emmer flour (including sprouted). They also carry berries, but I’ve just found the quality of hulling to be better with Einkorn.com.
I’ve used big shops like Amazon and Vitacost to grab things if I need it in a hurry. That usually works, but my last order left me waiting for almost three weeks when I finally cancelled the order. Apparently it’d been “damaged in transit” twice. This is one reason I recommend having a trusted place to fall back on.
My Favorite Einkorn Recipes
I hope this has given you some deeper understanding of two of the greatest farro grains. Do you use either of these?
From the Hilltop,