The History Of Einkorn, Nature’s First And Oldest Wheat

Einkorn is the oldest wheat known to scientists, and is considered man’s first wheat.  The term einkorn is derived from the German language and interpreted to mean “single grain”. Einkorn wheat is known in taxonomy as either Triticum boeoticum (wild wheat), or Triticum monococcum (domesticated species). Domesticated and wild forms of wheat may be considered either as separate species, or as Triticum monococcum’s subspecies.

Einkorn is among hulled wheat’s diploid species, with its grains being tightly enclosed with tough husks, also called the hull. Apart from the larger seeds and the intact nature of the ear when ripe, cultivated forms of einkorn wheat are similar to its wild counterparts. Although einkorn wheat was found in abundance millennia ago, it is limited to only a few regions today. The crop is not often planted, and has become popular as a super food in recent times.

Origins of Einkorn Wheat

Along with Triticum dicoccum (emmer wheat), einkorn wheat is recognised among the forms of wheat that were first cultivated by humans. Grains of the wild form were traced back to tens of thousands of years ago, and the first domestication of wild einkorn was recorded approximately around 7500 BC. It is believed to originate from the fertile areas of the Tigris-Euphrates regions. The origination of the wheat is believed to be a result of crossing the Triticum speltoides (wheat grass) and Triticum monococcum (domesticated wheat) naturally.

DNA finger-printing has shown evidence to suggest the domestication of einkorn wheat was carried out close to the mountains of Kacara Dag, located in the south-eastern parts of Turkey. However, the Bronze Age saw a decrease in the cultivation of the grain.

The crop can be found in mountainous regions of Morocco, France, Turkey, and parts of the former Soviet Union. It survives and thrives on soils where most other forms of wheat do not flourish. Einkorn was among the first cereals that were cultivated, following its wide distribution around Transcaucasia, the Middle East, south-western Europe, the Balkans and the Mediterranean areas.

Taxonomy of Einkorn Wheat

Einkorn wheat differs from varieties of modern wheat. Similar to other ancient forms of the crop (spelt and emmer), einkorn is classified as “covered wheat”. If un-branched, the inflorescence or head of cereal crops such as einkorn wheat is referred to as a spike. Spikelets or flowers make up these spikes and they are arranged on the stem’s extension also known as rachis. The flowers arise from rachilla – the nodes found on the rachis. The flowers are enclosed by the glumes, bracts, or chaff.

The cultivated and wild forms of einkorn wheat can be differentiated by the rachis’ brittleness. While wild einkorn has brittle rachis and is known for quick disarticulation of the flowers when mature, cultivated einkorn wheat has rachis, which is not as fragile, and is known to remain intact until it is thrashed.

More Information About Einkorn

18 thoughts on “The History Of Einkorn, Nature’s First And Oldest Wheat

  1. Pingback: Eat History – Einkorn Pasta: Bronze Age History With A Trademark + The Heritage Wheat Conservancy

    1. CE Whitehead

      All wheat contains gluten though the gluten and proteins in Einkorn are different than in modern wheat and may be tolerable ( you might also try tapioca and cassava starch — which are gluten-free if you have serious celiac disease ); another wheat variety, Khorasan wheat (marketed as kamut) is fairly low in gluten — and so for some people who have some gluten intolerance but can eat some khorasan is also o.k.

  2. Lorna

    Can the whole grain berries sold through this site be planted to grow your own for harvest? If not, is there a source of Einkorn seed for planting? Thank you!

    1. admin Post author

      Our customers report that the berries can be sprouted. We cannot guarantee a specific germination rate but one test we did showed a 70% germination rate.

    1. admin Post author

      Kamut is a different variety of wheat altogether. Kamut is a commercialized name for khorasan, which is a hexaploid wheat while einkorn is a diploid, and more primitive, genetically speaking.

  3. Anju

    Could you please let me know the import/export accession number of the einkorn that you sell or have you collected it from its natural habitat.
    Thank you

    1. Admin

      Jacqueline, einkorn should be able to grow just fine in East Texas. However, einkorn naturally comes with a hull/husk on it and that husk has been removed from the berries so that they can be used for food. That will be the biggest challenge in growing einkorn because it requires a special machine that is very expensive. If you can find someone with a rice dehuller, I hear those will also work but I do not know for a fact.

  4. garrison

    When you first began to grow einkorn, where did you source your first crop seed and how did you certify that what you were planting in Idaho was the genuine einkorn seed?


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