Between nature, history and territory: tradition meets science and innovation is our new bi-weekly column, which deals with typical products, organic at zero km, and surrounding ecomony. Stefania Montori and Lucia De Carolis will accompany us on this journey that turns 360 days on a very fascinating world to explore.
Ancient grains, intact flavors Stefania told us: when we talk about ancient grains we mean all those grains that have remained original over the millennia, without undergoing selection by man; in a nutshell they have remained as mother nature created them, without undergoing genetic modifications or variety selections as has happened for the so-called modern grains.
Ancient grains are distinguished by being rustic species, which blend well with cultivation techniques with low environmental impact: resistant to diseases, they have adapted to the environment over the centuries, creating populations called ecotypes in a completely natural way.
. There are several species of ancient grains, many of which spontaneously formed in different areas in terms of climate, altitude and type of soil; among these certainly stands out SPELLED, the oldest cereal cultivated by man since the dawn of agriculture.
Three different species are identified with the common name FARRO: ⦁ small spelled or MONOCOCCO (Triticum monococcum) - by far the oldest cereal, from which Triticum dicoccum originated. It has a low glycemic impact and being its more fragile gluten, it allows to obtain extremely digestible products.
⦁ medium spelled or DICOCCO (Triticum dicoccum) - it is the most widespread subspecies, progenitor of the current durum wheat (Triticum durum) so the flour obtained from it is definitely suitable for pasta making.
The vast majority of spelled grown in Italy belongs to this species, both today and in historical times (about 2000 years ago).
⦁ large spelled or SPELLED (Triticum spelta) - derived from a spontaneous cross between Triticum dicoccum and a wild progenitor, the current soft wheat (Triticum aestivum) originated from this subspecies, so the main use is milling for production of flour suitable for bread making and bakery products.
The small spelled is the one of the oldest cultivation, the first form of wheat cultivated. There are finds of its wild predecessor Triticum boeticum dating back to the 10th-9th millennium BC. in today's Turkey, probable area of origin.
The first finds of cultivation are attributed to the VIII-VII millennium BC.
Triticum dicoccum It is the most widespread and cultivated species in Italy where there are, depending on the cultivation areas, different populations.
It is widespread in the Apennines and in particular in Tuscany, Umbria, Marche, Abruzzo, Molise and Lazio. Historically it was one of the cereals that contributed most to nourish our ancestors, starting with the Roman Empire, when it was the basis of the troops' diet.
Extremely versatile, it is excellent for preparing soups and farrotti in winter and salads and cold dishes in summer. Its flour is excellent for bread, desserts, pizza or focaccia, with semolina an excellent pasta is obtained.
Curiosity: in the world it is called: Italy: FARRO
USA: EMMER or SPELT
Great Britain - Austria - Canada: SPELT
Spain: ESPELTA The cultivation of spelled has been decreasing over the centuries, but thanks to its importance from a nutritional point of view in recent years its consumption is being rediscovered.
Spelled is a cereal known since ancient times but has come back into vogue in recent times and although it resembles wheat, it actually has slightly different nutritional properties that make it highly appreciated by those who strive to balance healthy food and good cooking.
Resistant to cold climates and able to grow in poor soils, this cereal nevertheless has a low yield per hectare and the harvest is laborious, because the grains fall to the ground as they mature.
Spelled grows well in poor soils and is very resistant to cold, adapting to various types of soil and climates.
The water that is used for the growth of the plant affects the flavor and quality of the product. Today, rediscovered thanks to its excellent dietary properties, it is grown in Italy especially in Tuscany, in the Garfagnana, at the foot of the Apuan Alps, in the province of Lucca.
In Umbria, well-known is that of Monteleone di Spoleto and Civita di Cascia. Spelled intended for food consumption is divided into other types: - wholemeal, it comes in elongated and curved grains, light brown amber in color, stripped of the chaff, and on the palate it is consistent and dry, (highly recommended)
- semi-pearled differs from the integral one only for a slight scratch on the surface of the caryopsis, which remains whole; is lighter than fwholemeal and softer on the palate, therefore it is the most suitable for soups and salads.
- peeled, it keeps the glumetta intact, it is less refined and contains a higher percentage of fibers, cooked a little longer does not require any soaking.
- pearled, that is subjected to pearling, a process that eliminates the outer layers of the bark.
Traditionally it is consumed pearly which does not require soaking. This process decreases cooking times, but also the nutritional value.