Welcome to the wonderful world of Einkorn – said to be the very first form of cultivated wheat in the history of mankind! Dubbed the ‘great-grandfather’ of the world of wheat, einkorn can be traced back tens of thousands of years to around 7500 BC during the Paleolithic Era when archeological finds indicate that it was grown in the fertile areas of the Tigris-Euphrates region. It is the only variety of wheat that has never been crossed with other species, and while the crop is planted today in a very limited form, it has remarkably come to life again as a ‘super grain‘ in recent years.
More About Einkorn
What else do we know about this very ancient grain? Einkorn thrives in soils where most other forms of wheat do not and is said to be easier to digest than most of today’s processed grains. Its seeds are tightly enclosed in tough husks, called the hull or ear. When ripe, the grains look like thin, small, rice-like chewy berries that are pleasant and nutty in flavor.
Compared to modern whole wheat flours, einkorn flour is one of the purest flours you can find. While it is not gluten-free, it also does not contain some of the proteins that people with gluten-sensitivities can’t digest. So, for customers who are only moderately sensitive to gluten or want to reduce the amount of gluten in their diet for other reasons, einkorn is a viable and welcome ingredient.
Einkorn Marketed as the New Health Food
Like all heirloom grains and seeds, einkorn is inherently more nutritious than its modern-day counterparts. In both its wild and cultivated forms, it boasts a greater percentage of nutrients, is easier to digest, and it tastes good to boot!
Here is what we know about Einkorn’s nutritional benefits:
- Rich in protein, iron, dietary fiber, potassium, and vitamin B6
- Contains significant amounts of potassium, thiamin, and trace minerals
- Contains natural carotenoids commonly found in vegetables that help prevent serious diseases
- Contains a significant amount of the powerful antioxidant Lutein
- Contains Higher Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) than bread wheat and durum (an analytical measure of antioxidant potential)
How to Use Einkorn in Recipes
So, what are some of the ways chefs and restaurants are incorporating einkorn into their modern-day dishes? Some favorite uses of the grain in recipes include einkorn pancakes, einkorn waffles, einkorn cornbread, einkorn Italian bread, and even einkorn chocolate chip cookies.
If you are a professional baker, you will love substituting einkorn for wheat flour in most recipes. Less crumbly than alternatives such as coconut flour and not as dry as almond flour, you will find that einkorn dough rolls easily and rises nicely. Another bonus of einkorn flour is that due to the small size of its grains, it absorbs less fat than its counterparts and absorbs liquids more slowly.
And now… let’s welcome emmer into the fold! Another wheat relative that was prominent in the ancient world and part of the farro family, emmer also dates back thousands of years to when it was allegedly found in Egyptian tombs and was known as “The Pharaoh’s Wheat.” And, as with so many grains from yesteryear, emmer wheat became almost a relic crop until its recent resurgence in the global food industry. Meaning “hulled grain” in German, emmer is used in the making of beer in Germany, is widely consumed in Italy and Switzerland in the form of pane di farro (emmer bread) and is now appearing as a star ingredient in many baked goods and pasta recipes. Because it is hulled, it is highly durable and easier to grow organically than other grains, can thrive in poor soils and is resistant to fungal diseases that are prevalent in wet regions.
Emmer Nutritional Benefits
What does emmer look like? Described as dark-colored, medium-size berries, it has a unique rich and earthy flavor that has become a fast-favorite among chefs and consumers alike.
As for emmer’s nutritional profile, here is what we know:
- Emmer contains high levels of vitamins, minerals, & antioxidants
- Emmer is higher in fiber than modern-day wheat. The extra fiber normalizes blood glucose and insulin levels, helps lower cholesterol, prevents constipation, and can even reduce the risk for some types of cancer
- Emmer has a particularly low glycemic index, which means its glucose is released slowly and steadily. This makes emmer ideal for consumers with diabetes and anyone seeking to regulate their blood sugar and insulin levels
Did you know that emmer is purported to have been Julius Caesar’s favorite grain? Now, many millennia later, emmer continues to be a favorite among consumers and chefs alike. Its most popular dishes include emmer bread, emmer biscuits, and emmer porridge. The ancient-turned-modern grain can also be used as an easy and tasty substitute for rice in dishes such as risotto and its flour can also be made into a particularly tasty pasta.
How to Cook Emmer and Einkorn
Using the ratio of 2 cups liquid per one cup of grain, place emmer or einkorn in a pot and bring to a boil. Reducing heat to low, cover, and simmer until grains are tender and have absorbed all the liquid (30-40 minutes). Season to taste. Enjoy!
If you and your customers are new to einkorn, here is one recommended recipe that is pleasing to the eye and tasty to the palate.
Greek Einkorn Salad (Yield: 8 servings)
Greek Vinaigrette Ingredients
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp. dark balsamic vinegar
- 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 2 tsp. honey
- 1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
- 2 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- Soak einkorn overnight in water. Rinse, drain, and simmer in salted water for 30 minutes. Cool. Grain should be soft but still chewy.
- Combine all vinaigrette ingredients, gradually whisking in the olive oil.
- Except for the feta cheese, place all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and stir to combine.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Cover and chill overnight (or for at least 4 hours).
- Stir in feta cheese just before serving.
- Bon Appétit!
Note: You can make this recipe again using any type of grain or wheat (including emmer) instead of einkorn.