Certain natural food stores have started to sell “einkorn” wheat. Here in Minneapolis, you can find it at a lot of coops.
What the heck is it?
Einkorn wheat is the type of wheat that humans ate around 7500 B.C. It has 14 chromosomes and is very simple genetically speaking.
Einkorn wheat eventually mated naturally with a wild grass called Aegilops speltoides to form emmer wheat which is much more genetically complex at 28 chromosomes.
Somewhere around 1000 B.C. emmer wheat mated naturally with another grass called Triticum tauschii to yield the 42 chromosome version of wheat we know today. This version of wheat is the most genetically “pliable”, meaning it is easier to introduce desirable traits into its genetic code.
Over the last 50 years food scientists have “messed with” wheat to make it more drought-resistant, to improve crop yields, and to improve baking characteristics including palatability. If you really wanted to abstain from GMO, then for all practical purposes you would have to stop eating wheat, since it is probably the most genetically modified crop in the history of the planet.
Anyway, back to einkorn. Einkorn wheat does contain gliadin which is the protein of wheat gluten that causes intestinal permeability (so poop goes where it’s not supposed to go) but unlike modern wheat’s gliadin, einkorn gliadin doesn’t appear to be toxic. As a matter of fact, studies have shown that einkorn gliadin is safe for celiac patients.
So should you run to the coop and make some einkorn pancakes? It’s worth a try but the stuff you make with einkorn won’t be the fluffy, spongy, airy confection you are used to. Fluffiness is a baking characteristic that geneticists introduced into modern wheat. Einkorn wheat makes bread that is coarse, flat, heavy and astringent.
Hello! Flavor? Are you in there?
Nevertheless I would prefer einkorn wheat to modern wheat any day of the week. After learning about the genetics of modern wheat I can’t look at a donut without thinking about all those extra chromosomes rattling around in there. It gives me the heebie jeebies.