The terminology of ancient grains from A to Z


Amaranth is a pseudocereal (→ see pseudocereals) native to Central and South America and was an important staple food for the Incas and Aztecs. Amaranth contains large quantities of ingredients such as calcium, magnesium, iron or zinc. Amaranth is an alternative for people suffering from coeliac disease.

Ancient grains

Grains that were already being cultivated 10,000 years ago are described as "ancient grains". The best-known ancient grain varieties are einkorn and emmer, which have been replaced by grains that are more profitable and easier to process. (→ see einkorn, emmer, pure spelt and ancient rye)

Ancient rye

Ancient rye (Secale multicaule) is a 7,000-year-old grain variety, which originated in the Middle East. Ancient rye originally grew as a weed in the wheat fields. Because ancient grains often used to be sown on cleared areas, ancient rye is also known today as perennial rye or Waldstauden grain. In some regions, it is called St John's rye, since it was sown earlier on St John's day (24 June).


Ancient grains have specific, sometimes strong flavours, with a slightly sweet note (→ see taste). 


Ancient grains cannot be bought on the open grain market at present, since the harvest yields of ancient grains in particular are low in comparison to conventional cultures. For example, while wheat has a yield of 80 decitonnes per hectare, yields between one to two and two to four decitonnes per hectare can be expected for einkorn and emmer respectively. Ancient grains are therefore based mainly on contract cultivation.

Baking properties

However, the baking properties of ancient grains are not as good as those of modern grains, since they have comparatively weak gluten properties (→ see gluten). Compared to standard dough, dough made from ancient grains is less elastic, significantly more sensitive to kneading and smaller in volume. (→ see mixing and baking)

Bauländer spelt

Bauländer spelt is the oldest type of spelt still in existence today, and dates back to the year 1660. The grain is also known as Swabia grain, since its main growing areas are in the German Tauber region of Baden, Upper Swabia and the Swabian Alps. (→ see also spelt and pure spelt)

Biological diversity

Because of the long periods in the fields and the general absence of artificial fertilisers and pesticides, living organisms that have no place in conventionally managed fields are able to establish themselves. (→ see cultivation)


In botanical terms, grains are sweet grasses, which are cultivated for their edible parts – their grains.

Bread grains

Grains providing baking quality flour thanks to the high gluten content (→ see gluten) can be used for baking bread. Wheat and rye are the main bread grains. Einkorn, emmer, khorasan wheat, spelt and hard and soft wheat are also bread grains.


The ancient grain varieties have not been subjected to breeding over the centuries. Their nutritional profile has therefore not changed. (→ see nutrient content)


Buckwheat is not a grain plant, but, like rhubarb, it belongs to the knotweed (Polygonaceae) family and is a pseudocereal (→ see pseudocereals). its brown, triangular fruits are very similar to beechnuts Because the fruits of buckwheat are gluten-free, their flour plays an important role in the diet of people with coeliac disease (→ see coeliac disease).


Carotenoids are natural pigments, which give an orange or red colouring to various types of vegetables, such as tomatoes or carrots. Ancient grains owe their characteristic golden yellow colour to an increased carotene content. The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are important for vision. Carotene also strengthens the cardiovascular system. (→ see nutritional physiology)


With their yellowish colour, aromatic nutty and strong taste and sensory advantages, ancient grains differ from conventional grains such as rye or wheat. (→ Nutritional physiology; taste and flavour)


Chia seeds are small (→ see seeds) and originate from Mexico as well as Central and South America. As a so-called superfood, several positive characteristics are attributed to chia seeds. Chia seeds were the staple food of the Incas and are rich in vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids.

Coeliac disease

Coeliac disease is a gluten intolerance, which has the characteristics of both an allergy and an autoimmune disease. It is characterised by the chronic inflammation of the small intestinal mucosa as a result of hypersensitivity to gluten components that occur in many grains. (→ see pseudocereals and gluten)


The higher carotene content of ancient grains gives them a golden yellow or dark colouring. (→ see carotenoids)

Common barley

Barley is one of the oldest cultivated plants in Europe and Asia and was one of the first plants to be cultivated by humans. During the Bronze Age, around 3,000 B.C., common barley succeeded in almost supplanting the then established ancient grains einkorn and emmer. One of today's most famous species is Fisser Imperial barley. (→ see Fisser Imperial barley)


The cultivation method for ancient grains can be more soil-friendly than that of conventional crops. Fertilisers and other treatment agents are indeed used in the cultivation of ancient grains. However, less fertiliser is used as it has an unfavourable effect on plant height (→ see plant height). Today, more than 50 % of ancient grain cultivation takes place in conventional farming.  


Some ancient grain varieties such as einkorn, emmer or spelt are so-called nutritional grains, meaning that their grains are enclosed by a solid husk. Processing these grains is more complex because each individual grain must first be separated from the spelt, i.e. dehusked, in the roll mill.

Dough processing

The term "dough processing" describes the entire dough development, from the mixing of ingredients to baking. It depends on many factors, which can be controlled selectively to achieve optimal baking results. Among these factors are dough temperature and cooking temperature, water content, cooking time, recipe, dough process type and the use of primary stages (e.g. sponge, sourdough, soakers). Various dough processing methods are available, which are used according to the desired baking properties.

Dough yield

The dough yield (DY) is expressed in figures between the quantity of liquid used in the dough, for example water, milk, oil, etc., and the quantity of flour. The flour quantity is always 100 %. If a dough consists of 10 kilograms of flour and 5 litres of water, this gives a DY of 150. Dough yields are often used as a way of facilitating recipe handling.

Durum wheat

Durum wheat (Triticum durum), also known as hard wheat, is a type of wheat with ears that are always bristled and often compact. In Austria, durum wheat is only in the Pannonian climatic region (Nordburgenland, Vienna Basin, Weinviertel Region) on medium and deep soils. This grain is not particularly well adapted to moist locations.

Ecological cultivation

Ancient grains are relatively undemanding crops – for example in terms of fertiliser use – and are therefore valued in organic farming. Pesticides are largely unnecessary for ancient grains, since most ancient grain varieties are less sensitive to diseases, pests and fungi than conventional grain types.


Einkorn (Triticum monococcum) was already being cultivated over 10,000 years ago and was one of the earliest crops, together with chickpeas, linseed and bitter vetch. In 1991, einkorn was identified in the stomach of an approximately 5,000-year-old glacier mummy, "Ötzi", which was found in the Alps (→ see Ötzi). The name "einkorn" results from the fact that there is only one grain on each rachis section.


Together with einkorn, emmer is one of the oldest grains. Emmer is also called "Pharaoh's wheat" or "farro" as it was the most important plant crop in Babylon, ancient Greece and ancient Egypt. This grain has two grains per rachis section, its scientific name is Triticum dicoccum.

Fertile crescent

The ancient grain varieties originated in the so-called Fertile Crescent. This refers to the region at the northern edge of the Syrian desert, which adjoins the Arabian Peninsula in the north. The name is derived from the area that extends in the form of a crescent moon in a wide arc extending from the Persian Gulf in modern southern Iraq across the north of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Jordan.


Less artificial fertiliser is usually used in the cultivation of ancient grains; excessive fertilisation sometimes has a counterproductive effect on the yield. (→ see organic cultivation)


Flakes are pressed grain kernels. To produce flakes, the dehusked (→ see dehusking) grains are steamed briefly, then pressed. Flakes are obtained from different types of grain such as wheat, spelt and barley. Gluten-free varieties of rice, soy, buckwheat (→ see buckwheat) and millet are now offered in flake form.


Flour primarily refers to the powder that is generated during the fine grinding of grain kernels. It is extracted from the wheat, spelt, rye, oat, barley, millet, maize and rice grain varieties. However, only flour made from wheat, spelt, emmer and rye is suitable for making bread. But pseudocereals, such as buckwheat, quinoa and various other seeds, can also be processed into flour. Ground emmer, for example gives a coarser, more grainy and relatively high-gluten flour, which makes the dough loose. Einkorn grains produce a "fluffy" flour.


Freekeh is spelt grain harvested when half-ripe and dried immediately afterwards.


A fungicide is a chemical or biological substance that kills fungi and fungus spores. Fungicides are used mainly as pesticides in agriculture. They are also used to combat harmful fungi (such as moulds) on wood, paint, textiles, walls and in food.


Gluten, whose name is derived from the Latin word for glue, forms the dough framework of bread and baked goods. Gluten also gives baked goods their elasticity. Pseudocereals do not have this gluten protein, so those allergic to gluten can eat them as a grain substitute. (→ see pseudocereals and coeliac disease)


Grains are grasses, which are cultivated for the edible parts of their grains. In botanical terms, a grain is a type of fruit, consisting of the endosperm, germ bud and husk.


Grains are grasses, which are cultivated for the edible parts of their grains. In botanical terms, a grain is a type of fruit, consisting of the endosperm, germ bud and husk.


The term "grass" refers to monocotyledonous, herbaceous plants with inconspicuous flowers and long, narrow leaves. In botanical terms, grasses belong to the order of sweet grasses. The two main groups are sweet grasses and sour grasses. Botanically, all plants known as grasses are (except zosteraceae) belong to the order of sweet grasses (Poales) (→ see sweet grass).

Hard wheat and durum wheat

→ see durum wheat


According to the earliest archaeological evidence, corn was already being cultivated over 10,000 years ago. Emmer, einkorn and, somewhat later, spelt were the main grains at the time and were widely used. However, with increasing progress, the needs of the people grew towards higher yields. Higher-yielding wheat in particular supplanted the ancient grain varieties.

Hohenheim University

The University is home to Germany's only research institution conducting research on ancient grains. The work focuses on improving the agronomic characteristics as well as more detailed study and description of the baking properties.

Hulled wheat

Another name for emmer, since this grain type has two grains on each section of the rachis. (→ see emmer)


Another name for Khorasan wheat. "Kamut" is not a botanical term, but a registered trademark for a product, which is nevertheless genetically identical to Khorasan wheat. (→ see Khorasan wheat)

Khorasan wheat

Khorasan wheat originated about 6,000 years ago following the crossing of wheat varieties, and spread throughout Egypt. Thanks to its excellent gluten properties, it is relatively suitable for baking and gives baked goods a nutty-buttery note.


Meal is a coarsely crushed grain, which is prepared by grinding on a roller mill or by crushing or grinding using a crushing mill. Depending on the purpose, different coarse meals are used in baking.


Millet is a collective term for ten to twelve different genera of nutritional grain and belongs to the family of sweet grasses. The first finds of demonstrable millet cultivation date back to 7,000 to 8,000 B.C. in north and northeast China.


Ancient grains usually contain more minerals, such as magnesium, zinc, iron, manganese and phosphorus, than conventional grain. (→ see nutrient content and nutritional physiology)

Mixing and baking

With specially developed recipes and appropriate dough processing methods, characteristic and high-quality baked goods can be produced with ancient grains. Meanwhile, several suppliers are offering proven solutions to produce exclusive ancient grain specialties.


Ancient grains do not need artificial fertilisation. This could even have a negative impact on the yield in some cases. For example, in einkorn, emmer and ancient rye, the grain stalks could become even longer as a result of fertilisation and as a result could fold in windy weather and heavy rain. (→ see also ecological cultivation)

Nutrient content

The ancient grain varieties have not been subjected to any breeding over the centuries, therefore their nutritional profile has not changed. (→ see nutritional physiology)

Nutrient requirement

Ancient grains are undemanding, weather-resistant and thrive on barren, nutrient-poor soils. Thanks to their low nutrient requirements, ancient grains are particularly suitable for growing on extensively cultivated dry soil and are therefore popular grain varieties for organic farming. (→ ecological cultivation)

Nutritional grain

Grains such as einkorn, emmer and spelt have a fixed spelt, which is a husk around the grains. This husk cannot be removed by threshing alone, but must be dehusked in a special rice huller. (→ see nutritional dehusking)

Nutritional physiology

Ancient grains are predominantly richer in essential vitamins and minerals. The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are important for eyesight and can help to strengthen the cardiovascular system. The amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine are involved in the formation of adrenaline and other substances that produce alertness and concentration.


Glacier mummy found in the Ötztal Alps (South Tyrol) in 1991. Scientists discovered einkorn residues in the stomach and pouch of the approximately 5,000 year-old mummy.

Perennial rye

The best-known species of ancient rye, which in the past was often sown in cleared areas. Perennial rye is called St John's rye in some regions, since it was sown around Saint John's day (24 June). (→ St John's rye)


Pesticides are chemical or biological products used to protect plants and plant products from damage caused by animals (insects or rodents, for example), as well as from diseases such as fungal infestations.

Pharaoh's wheat, Farro

(→ see emmer)

Plant height

Some ancient grain varieties can reach a considerable height. For example, the blades of ancient rye can reach heights of up to nearly two metres, while emmer may reach a height of 1.80 metres. (→ see nutritional stability)


A plant (Embryophyta) is an organism that usually consists of roots, leaves and a stem. The branch of biology that deals with the scientific study of plants is botany.


Dough made from ancient grains is harder to process because of their relatively weak gluten properties. The limited baking properties result in lower volumes of baked goods, among other things. It is therefore important (see also → dough processing) to use specially developed recipes and appropriate dough processing methods. Meanwhile, several suppliers are offering proven solutions to produce ancient grain baked goods.


(→ see dough processing)


Ancient grains usually contain more proteins than conventional crops. (→ see nutritional physiology)


Pseudocereals such as amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa are plants that are similar to grains, but do not belong to the family of grain plants. Their seeds can be ground into flour or they can be used as grains in other ways. Pseudocereals are gluten-free and can be a good alternative for people suffering from coeliac disease. (→ see coeliac disease)

Pure spelt

Pure spelt (Triticum spelta), also known as spelt wheat, is a wheat variety that has been cultivated since 5,000 B.C. In Greek mythology, spelt was a gift from the goddess Demeter to the Greeks, who were the first to use this grain. The oldest type of spelt still in existence today is Bauländer spelt, which dates back to 1660 and originates from the "Bauland", an open level area of countryside in northern Baden. (→ see spelt and Bauländer spelt)


Quinoa is a species of the goosefoot genus. It comes from South America and was already grown there around 6,000 years ago mainly in the Andes. In Europe, quinoa has only been known since the 20th century. Quinoa has a high magnesium and iron content and is rich in minerals, trace elements and high-quality vegetable protein.


(→ see Hohenheim University)

Rice huller

In a husking mill, ancient grain varieties as well as barley, oats, millet and rice are unhusked, meaning that they are released from the husk, which is firmly attached to the grain and does not fall out during threshing. (→ see dehusking)


Rye (Secale cereale) is a grain of the family of sweet grasses, which is mainly cultivated in temperate climates on light, acid and sandy soils. In the case of rye, a distinction is made between the winter and summer forms – winter rye is mainly grown in central Europe, since this rye adapts well to cool and dry climate characteristics. The rye grain is used for food, animal feed and beverages, and also as a renewable raw material.


A seed is a plant that is not yet mature and is enclosed in a protective seed coat, often together with endosperm. Known seeds include flax seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds and chia.


Sorghum (millet) is a small fruity nutritional grain (→ see nutritional grains) from the family of sweet grasses (→ see sweet grass). The 30 different species have been cultivated in warmer climates for different production purposes for more than 2,500 years. The originally undemanding grain, native to Africa, is currently grown worldwide and is the fifth most important food grain variety the world. It is used as a staple food in Africa, Central America and South Asia in particular.


The terms "sowing" and "seeding" refer to the sowing of seed. There are different sowing methods in agriculture. Today, sowing is usually done mechanically in parallel rows with equal distances between the rows at a uniform sowing depth in agriculture, horticulture and landscaping.


Emerging from einkorn and emmer, spelt was being cultivated in its original as early as 5,000 B.C. During the 12th century the famous Benedictine abbess, Saint Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), praised spelt as a universal treatment. The oldest type of spelt still in existence today is Bauländer spelt, which dates back to 1660 and originates from the "Bauland", an open level area of countryside in northern Baden. (→ see Bauländer spelt).

Sprouted grain

Sprouted grain is the development in which the grain germinates before the harvest while still on the mother plant, for example during wet weather. 


Because of their long stalks, some of which are up to two metres tall, ancient grains such as ancient rye have low stability, i.e. the blades can break off more quickly. (→ see also plant height)

St John's rye

Another name for ancient rye, which was sown around St John's day (June 24) in some regions.

Straw shorteners or stalk-reducing substances

Straw shorteners are chemical plant compounds, which are used to regulate the growth of a plant. They are used to inhibit the growth of the stalk, thereby increasing sturdiness against precipitation and wind. (→ see also plant height)

Summer grain

(→ see winter grain)


Because of the long periods in the fields (→ see cultivation) and the general absence of artificial fertilisers and pesticides (→ see naturalness), living organisms that are absent from or are only present to a limited extent in conventional fields are able to establish themselves.

Swabia grain

(→ see Bauländer spelt)

Sweet grass

Sweet grasses (Poaceae) are seed-bearing plants. With more than 12,000 species subdivided into approximately 700 genera, sweet grasses are one of the great families of seed-bearing plants and are represented in all climate zones worldwide. Many species of sweet grasses are among the oldest crops. All grains such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, millet, maize and rice are among this group of plants.


Baked goods made from ancient grains generally have a slightly stronger taste with spicy notes and have a more nutty flavour. They also have a delicate flavour and contribute to the intensive crumb and crust colour. (→ see also flavour)

Taste and smell

In food technology, taste and smell are used for evaluating properties with the sensory organs. They are used in industrial and technical product development, production, quality control, quality assurance and research. The visual, touch, smell, taste and hearing are all used. Application is subject to DIN and ISO standards.

Trace elements

Ancient grains usually contain more trace elements than modern grain varieties. (→ see nutritional physiology and nutrient content)


Bread grains have a long history. The earliest archaeological finds date back to the period around 10,000 B.C. Einkorn, the ancestor of all wheat varieties, was one of the first crops cultivated by humans, together with chickpeas, linseed and bitter vetch. Emmer, which is also one of the oldest grains in the world, was the most important cultivated grain in Babylon, ancient Greece and ancient Egypt. According to tradition, emmer was also Julius Caesar's favourite grain.

Whole grain

Whole grain is grain from which only the beards and husks have been removed after harvesting. Fibre, vitamins, oils and minerals are retained in the husk (bran) and the germ bud. With whole grains, the entire grain is further processed into meal or flour and other whole-grain products, such as breakfast grains.

Wild grass

Uncultivated, wildly growing grass.

Winter grains

In the cultivation of ancient grain varieties, a distinction is made between winter grain and summer grain: Winter grains are usually sown in September and harvested in July of the following year. This early sowing is necessary as some grains need a frost period to stimulate growth. Among the ancient grain varieties, spelt is a typical representative of the winter crops. Summer grains can be sown as late as March, since they only need around six months to ripen.


The yields of ancient grain varieties are considerably lower than those of conventional wheat: While modern wheat yields about 80 decitonnes per hectare (t/ha), spelt, for example, yields 4 to 5 t/ha, emmer 2 to 4 t/ha and einkorn 1 to 2 t/ha.