We call it Spelt; Germans call it Dinkel wheat. Call it what you want, as long as you consider it a reasonable alternative to wheat. The advent of modern wheat cultivation has crowded this ancient grain out of mainstream production. However, a recent trend in revisiting ancient grains has renewed interest in spelt, for good reason.
Consider Dinkel wheat or Spelt as an Alternative to Wheat
Spelt offers an alternative to gluten-rich domesticated wheat, which pervades the typical American diet. Spelt also promotes positive effects on our digestive system which helps keep the body in harmony. Hildegard of Bingen was so taken by Spelt (Dinkel wheat) that she considered it the best available grain (and, probably food.) When it comes to Hildegard, dinkel wheat ranks at the top of her nutrition plan.
The Background on Spelt (dinkel wheat)
Dinkel wheat (Triticum Spelta) is a species of wheat. It’s closely related to common wheat (Triticum Aestivum), the most economically relevant species of wheat today, but has structural differences that are more favorable in terms of digestion and nutritional utilization.
Together with einkorn, emmer, and barley, spelt is a so-called “covered wheat”, because kernels do not break free of their casing during the harvest process. With each of these cereals, the actual grain is protected by an outer layer (“spelt”), which gets removed in processing.
Spelt first appeared in Germany around 500 AD. It was grown primarily in Swabish areas near Baden-Württemberg and Franconia, which is how it acquired the old nickname, the “Swabia grain”. You can still find villages with names like “Dinkelsbühl” that confirm the historical importance and popularity of this cereal. Until the 18th century, Dinkel wheat was one of the most important commercial crops in these regions.
Dinkel wheat – Expense of Farming Spelt
An unintended consequence of agricultural industrialization left Dinkel wheat in obscurity. Wheat’s superior economic viability meant farmers replaced spelt crops with wheat. And, you can’t blame the farmers. Traditional wheat produces 40 percent higher yields and significantly higher profits than spelt.
Spelt has a protective layer surrounding its grain (“spelt”), which gets removed in production in order to make it more commercially viable for a variety of applications. The removal presents an additional processing step (and expense) otherwise not required with common wheat. But this structural difference is also what makes spelt a healthier alternative to common wheat.
Dinkel wheat – Crop for Organic Farming
Perhaps the most important distinction between farming spelt and farming wheat is the manner by which both react to extraneous influence. Wheat reacts extremely well to artificial fertilizer, while fertilizers do not positively affect spelt plants. Despite failing as a chemically enhanced bumper crop, some of the same factors that limit mass production of spelt make it ideal for organic farming.
Notwithstanding the fact that spelt farming produces a less economical harvest and requires a more labor-intensive production process than wheat, organic farmers appreciate certain advantages of spelt. For example, its durability and weather resistance support growth on barren, rocky soils up to 1,000 meters above sea level. And, since it doesn’t tolerate artificial fertilizer, spelt can be grown in protected areas, where water seepage is prohibited.
So what about that protective layer around the spelt berry? It represents an additional production expense, but the spelt casing serves a useful purpose in protecting the grain from pests, fungi and other possible environmental effects. The spelt casing supports the natural resilience of this grain. Wheat, on the other hand, lacks this protection and thus requires chemical fungicides or other pesticides to preserve the plant until the harvest period.
Hildegard of Bingen saved Dinkel wheat
The renewed relevance of spelt in Germany coincides with the rediscovery of Hildegard and traditional German herbal medicine. Our namesake, Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179) resurrected this cereal posthumously; spelt is one of the main pillars of her beliefs about nutrition. The abbess looked at spelt as an “all-purpose” food in the best sense. She considered it suitable for almost everyone – and in any situation.
During Hildegard’s time, there weren’t reliable nutritional charts designed to manage diets. But Hildegard, believed in the power of plants; that every plant possessed certain properties (called “subtlety”) with the power to affect human health. Through her experience, supported by her visions and spiritual thinking, Hildegard categorized healthy and less healthy foods.
According to Hildegard, spelt possesses entirely positive subtlety. In fact, spelt serves a primary role in each of Hildegard’s three healthy fasts, and spelt coffee is among the only permitted foods in Hildegard’s strictest fasting guidelines, which consists of only liquid. We’ve published a lot more regarding Hildegard’s views on Dinkel, including some of her soundbites on spelt benefits.
“Nothing but Spelt and Water”
Dr. Gottfried Hertzka, helped rediscover Hildegard Medicine, along with Dr. Wighard Strehlow. Both Drs. Hertzka and Strehlow concurred with Hildegard’s views of the overwhelming health benefits of spelt. In fact, in answer to a question of how he would treat his own cancer, Dr. Hertzka said the following:
“If I ever would get cancer, I would retire with a bag of spelt and a little bag of salt on a remote mountain in the Bavarian Alps and live only by spelt and water. Then we would see who is stronger, me or cancer.”
Disccover more benefits of spelt here.