Einkorn

The ancestor of all wheat varieties

 

The home of einkorn is located in the region between the Euphrates and the Tigris. From there, einkorn gradually extended to Europe from around 7,600 B.C. During the Bronze Age, einkorn was one of the main grains. Even "Ötzi", the Alpine mummy, had fed on einkorn. The importance of einkorn has decreased over time. It only continued to be used in Italy as cattle feed. But with the current revival of ancient grains, einkorn is also being grown more widely once again, and is being used in today's modern applications.
 

Characteristics

What einkorn represents

 

• one of the first harvested crops

• identified in 1991 in the stomach of an approximately 5,000-year-old glacier mummy, "Ötzi", which was found in the Alps

• owes its name to the fact that there is only one grain on each rachis section

• contains more minerals, proteins and trace elements than modern grain varieties

• gives flour and bread crumbs a slightly yellowish colour

• has a unique, pleasant nutty flavour

Thomas Miedaner and Friedrich Longin

Einkorn and emmer have earned a permanent place on the shelf. With its superior profile of health-promoting ingredients such as carotenoids, minerals and secondary ingredients (zinc, selenium), einkorn can almost be categorised as a "functional food". In addition, einkorn delivers a totally new intense flavour.

Thomas Miedaner and Friedrich Longin

„Unterschätzte Getreidearten – Einkorn, Emmer, Dinkel & Co.“ (Agrimedia Verlag 2012)

 

Delicacies made with einkorn have a slightly nutty, particularly fine flavour. They also have a characteristic golden yellow colour, which is the result of the high carotene content. As scientists Thomas Miedaner and Friedrich Longin explain in their book "Unterschätzte Getreidearten – Einkorn, Emmer, Dinkel & Co." [Underestimated Grains – Einkorn, Emmer, Spelt & Co.], einkorn is the grain that has by far the highest levels of carotenoids and tocols, a precursor of vitamin E. Because of their antioxidant properties, as a "free radical scavenger", carotenoids in general may prevent (colon) cancer. Miedaner and Longin also explain that einkorn contains significantly higher levels of minerals and trace elements than bread wheat. 

Cultivation

How einkorn thrives


Ancient grains have their own particular characteristics in terms of cultivation and processing. You have to know how to handle them. But the effort is worthwhile, since ancient grains are treasures worth preserving that have great potential! Like the other ancient grains, einkorn is naturally very hardy. It is undemanding, weather-resistant and thrives on barren, nutrient-poor soils. Thanks to its low nutrient requirements, einkorn is also suitable for growing on extensively cultivated dry soil and is therefore a popular organic farming grain.

Einkorn stalks are very long, so it is not very stable. The expected yield of einkorn falls far short of the yield figures for common wheat, which makes every single grain a treasure.

Processing

How to handle einkorn


The correct degree of maturity must be timed for the time of harvest. So the rachis – the main axis of the ear, particularly the fragility of the ear, plays a major role here. If einkorn is harvested too early, the combine harvester may clog owing to beards that are too tough. If harvested too late, losses may be incurred as too many ear parts have already been broken off. Intuition is therefore needed for successful cultivation. 

This also applies to processing the grain yield. Einkorn is a nutritional grain, meaning that the grains are enclosed by a solid husk. This has the advantage of the grain kernel being protected from harmful environmental influences and impurities. However, processing is more complex because each individual grain must first be separated from the spelt in the roll mill. Which is why it requires people highly specialised the milling craft.

Ground einkorn grains produce a "fluffy" flour. The gluten qualities are very poor; it is often not possible to wash the gluten out properly. Gourmets nevertheless designate the grain as the finest that can be grown in Europe.

Einkorn has a very soft gluten, which is very difficult to wash out, as the scientists Thomas Miedaner and Friedrich Longin report in "Unterschätzte Getreidearten – Einkorn, Emmer, Dinkel & Co." (Agrimedia Verlag 2012). The soft gluten is said to cause extremely poor dough stability, which means that breads must be made in baking pans and no freely pushed bread products are available. The gas retention capacity, and therefore the baked volume, are also very low. 

To meet these challenges successfully, it is important to use specially developed recipes and appropriate dough processing methods. Ancient grains can then be used to produce enjoyable, high-quality baked goods, which meet the needs of modern consumers. Meanwhile, several suppliers are supporting interested bakers with proven solutions to produce exclusive ancient grain specialties.

Like other grain types, einkorn is very versatile to use. It can be used to cook soups, bake sweet waffles or make delicious pasta. Einkorn can also be used for brewing beers. Finished einkorn products or the ingredients for delicious einkorn dishes can be found in organic shops and health food stores as well as on the Internet.