Nutty, with a slight hint of sweetness, spelt has its own subtle flavor, unique from its other wheat relatives.
Spelt is a grain in the wheat family; however, it is sort of in its own class. While it is considered an ancient grain, it is a “newer” hybrid from the truly ancient grains such as emmer and einkorn. Several things make Spelt unique; first, it seems to be a natural hybrid between a ‘hulled’ variety wheat grain and what is considered a ‘free-threshing’ wheat grain (all to do with the presence and density of the coating of the grain). It also appears to have popped up of its own accord in a variety of landscapes as a natural cross between the hulled and free threshing varieties. It was initially believed that spelt hybridization gave rise to what we currently understand as bread wheat (t.aesivitum), however archeobotanists no longer believe this is necessarily the case. In some areas, early man was cultivating variations of bread wheat before spelt came into their landscape. So, it appears the most accurate identification would be that spelt is a naturalized hybrid of various wheat varieties. It appears spelt first emerged on the domesticated grain scene around 2200 B.C., in several different locations across Europe and the areas once considered the Fertile Crescent.
From a culinary perspective, spelt is a delicious addition to your dietary repertoire. It has a distinctive flavor, sweet, nutty and chewy; quite similar to barley but still unique. It cooks relatively quickly and is great for sweet and savory dishes. It can be a breakfast grain, added to a salad, tossed in soups and stews. As flour, it is a great replacement for bread flour, being slightly lower in gluten/gliadin ratio. It still possesses enough to make a good pliable bread dough and give some lift to other baked goods.
From a health perspective, spelt is a good choice because it contains a significant amount of protein and vitamins and minerals, while containing lower amount of tannins and about 40% less phytic acid than other common wheat varieties contain. This makes spelt easier to digest and the nutrients easier to assimilate. Spelt is a great source of glutamine, lysine, methionine, and proline; all of which are amino acids critical to our health. Spelt also contains a significant amount of vitamins A, E, D, and B.
Studies have indicated that the inclusion of spelt in the diet can help decrease the occurrence of ailments like colitis, high blood cholesterol, dermatitis, systemic inflammation and oxidative stress. It’s important to remember the spelt does contain gluten so individuals suffering from celiac disease or genuine gluten allergy/intolerance should avoid consuming.