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 the most primitive form of wheat on Earth. It contains only 14 chromosomes, whereas modern wheat contains 42. Einkorn does not have the D chromosome, which seems to be connected with wheat intolerance in many humans.

Einkorn is easier to digest and contains more protein and anti-oxidants than modern wheat.

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

53 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 (http://www.einkorn.com/is-einkorn-flour-gluten-free/ http://dontwastethecrumbs.com/2014/11/einkorn-a-wheat-for-the-gluten-free/ 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.

      Reply
    2. Wendy Domino

      Einkorn still has gluten. If you have celiac disease or non celiac gluten sensitivity you still can’t eat einkorn or kamut or any other ancient form of wheat.

      Modern wheat might be more likely to trigger the disease but once you have it, you have it, and you can’t eat gluten, wheat, rye, barley, or triticale.

      Reply
      1. Admin

        Hi Wendy. It’s true that einkorn does still have gluten, but we have had people with many different kinds of gluten sensitivities who can eat einkorn without problems. We do recommend that anyone with celiac disease consult with their doctor before trying einkorn.

        Reply
        1. Angelique Larkin

          Amazingly I had zero reaction to this!!! I am allergic to gluten. I have reactions even with fryers having gluten in them & then frying my foods (ie fries, etc). I am still in disbelief!

          Reply
          1. Jennifer Schlegelmilch

            Hi Angelique. We are so glad to here that! You are one of many with a similar story. We appreciate your feedback so much!

  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!

    Reply
    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.

      Reply
    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.

      Reply
  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

    Reply
    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.

      Reply
  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?

    Reply
  5. Greg Malcham

    Is there a Einkorn seed supplier in the US? If so what is there address.

    Thank You
    Greg Malcham

    Reply
    1. Admin

      Greg, we are not aware of any einkorn seed suppliers in the United States. The berries we sell on our website are intended for food, and we do not have einkorn seed available for sale due to limited supply. 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. Removal of the hull is accomplished with very little kernel damage. They germinate, but without the hull, the seedlings lack vigour. We tested the germination rate of the berries, and although we cannot guarantee a germination rate, we saw a rate of 40% germination on our test. Many customers buy the berries from us and use them for making sprouted einkorn. They seem to be happy with it. Your biggest challenge with growing einkorn is removing the husk after harvest 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.

      Reply
  6. Dave

    Can you give me a source of einkorn seed. I would like to plant an acre if I can find enough seed. I already own a dehuller that we use for our Emmer.

    Reply
    1. Admin

      Hi Dave, I am not aware of anyone who sells einkorn seed. We obtained ours from a farmer in Germany but are not authorized to disclose his information. I would look online and see if you can find anyone.

      Reply
  7. Zvi Ortner

    Do you have details about the genetic makeup of the Einkorn
    And how is it different from the regular wheat?

    Reply
  8. Francis Long

    I think this is just a bunch of hype putting a new name on a product that you can sell to people that are gullible . Seems to me but sounds just like wheat. still need to husk it and in the old times there was no machine to do so it was done by hand. LOL

    Reply
    1. Admin

      Hi Francis, It is important to be careful about that kind of thing on the internet. Einkorn, however, is actually very different from modern wheat. If you hold them next to each other, you can see the difference. Modern wheat does not have the hull like einkorn. Modern wheat is free-threshing so it’s quite a bit different. The nutrition profile and gluten content is vastly different as well. But you’re right to be cautious and it’s important to do your research before accepting something just because it’s out there. I would encourage you to research einkorn if you’re interested but wary. Always a good idea!

      Reply
      1. Crystal Green

        I have just made my first batch of bread including a third of Einkorn flour. I can tell you that it is really delicious! and I shall continue to use it. I always make my own bread but mostly use a third wholemeal to two thirds unbleached white. This is far better with both taste and texture!

        Reply
        1. Paul Nourbash

          My lunch today was Einkorn grain steamed like you would rice. (2 parts water to 1 part grain.) To this I added a little olive oil, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, walnuts, and cranberries.

          Tastes great. There is more of a nutty flavor, and the grains are intact. Definitely not mushy like oatmeal.

          Bought it at a local farm, where they sell fresh eggs, raw milk, and cheese products.

          Reply
  9. michelle

    I’m curious- in the right hand corner of your website you have written:
    Einkorn: Man’s first wheat, grown by farmers 5,000 years ago.
    However its pretty well documented that wheat was one of the first crops ever cultivated, when agriculture began about 10,000 years ago. If Einkorn is the first and original wheat as you claim: “Einkorn is the oldest wheat known to scientists, and is considered man’s first wheat” Woulndt it have been grown by farmers 10,000 years ago?

    Just wondering

    Reply
    1. Admin

      Hi Michelle, thanks for the great question! Sources don’t always agree about when einkorn was domesticated, but I think you’re about the ballpark of 10,000 years ago. The most important thing is that it was man’s first wheat and has never been hybridized.

      Reply
  10. Veronica

    Your comments to Francis Long were very tactful, kind and wise. So very much appreciated. Qualities like that are very rare in this day and age. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
    1. Admin

      Hi Luc, We only sell the domesticated einkorn (triticum monococcum). They are so similar, they are sometimes listed as subspecies. The difference is that the wild species grains fall to the ground instead of remaining attached, so they are very difficult to harvest. I don’t know of anyone who sells wild einkorn.

      Reply
  11. BEVERLY JEAN HARLAN

    i just today found out about einkorn wheat and then found your web site! I am very excited because i am sensitive to gluten; i am not celiac. Have gluten sensitive people reported to you that they can eat your wheat without having negative reactions? i have not eaten gluten for 8 years. I make my own bread with gluten free flours and the breads are delicious, so i do not feel too deprived. But I sure would love to find out that i can eat einkorn wheat without having problems. I have many friends who also are gluten free, and they would also probably be very interested!

    Reply
    1. Admin

      Hi Beverly, we’ve had many people who were gluten sensitive tell us they could eat einkorn without any problems (Truthfully, I’ve never had anyone say it gave them problems). That being said, I’m not familiar with your case. I would suggest ordering a small amount to start with and make sure it works for you. We’re happy to answer any questions you have.

      Reply
  12. Lynn

    For Beverly and others who are wondering how einkorn wheat will be tolerated by a gluten sensitive person: From my personal experience, I had many problems for years associated with seemingly any type of gluten. I finally accepted the fact that I would have to avoid all gluten and became ‘gluten-free’. It was a tough road for me though, being a baker. Sure, I learned how to bake with different types of grains, rices etc. Not only does it require multiple ingredients, but it was never quite the same, always more work to convert recipes, not to mention the taste was REALLY lacking for me. Truthfully, it was a little depressing for me. Then one day, years ago, as I was scanning the internet, I discovered my MIRACLE WHEAT–Einkorn!! I bought an einkorn baking book, a bag of flour and wheat berries. In the last 4 years, I have been eating Einkorn exclusively and am happy to report that I feel fantastic and have NO digestive issues whatsoever! Turns out, it wasn’t gluten itself that was so problematic, it was the TYPE of gluten, that was hard on me. Even more interesting, my husband has lost 20 of his extra lbs this past year by switching to einkorn wheat only. Once in a great while I try a bite of (organic) modern day wheat…and true to form, I get a stomach ache and become bloated for the next 8 hours-just with one bite! So for myself and my family, Einkorn is the greatest re-discovery ever! In addition to the health benefits, the flavor of baked goods and the berries are so much more flavorful than regular wheat. Everyone who tries any of my einkorn breads, cakes or other goodies, begs me for more. In addition, Einkorn has so much more flavor than hybridized wheat. Einkorn is truly the greatest discovery for me–and has given me back my zeal for baking! After that first ‘experiment’ with einkorn, I ordered several buckets of einkorn berries and a wheat grinder and have never looked back! I bake or cook with it daily…I bake delicious, moist and slightly tangy sourdough artisan loaves every week…and a sourdough cinnamon raisin breakfast loaf…Einkorn makes a heavenly gnocchi pasta, oh and did I mention how light and airy einkorn waffles are?! We are so so grateful for einkorn wheat and the einkorn.com family!!!

    Reply
    1. Kathy Tyler

      Did you find that you have to adjust the liquid in your baking with einkorn? Do you buy that which is raised in the US or imported? Do you grind all of your own wheat for baking?

      Reply
  13. Crystal Bradley

    I too am allergic to modern wheat. It causes stomach pains shortly after consumption. I read the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis. Dr. Davis book shared much information about modern wheat and its negative impact on the body. I ordered Einkorn flour and the berries from website mentioned in the book. I now enjoy cooking and baking with Einkorn wheat. The consumption of Einkorn wheat is without side effects for me. Modern wheat does not affect everyone the same. However, the majority of people I have shared info from Dr. Davis book, were having gastrointestinal (GI)issues, not excluding bloating, and joint pain. I suggested eliminating wheat from their diet (wheat is in most foods and products). Those that were successful in cutting wheat out of their diet reported positive results within 5-7 days. They too are able to eat Einkorn wheat without side effects.

    Reply
    1. Admin

      Hi Crystal, thank you for the feedback. We are so glad it is working out for you. Thank you also for spreading the word!

      Reply
  14. Cyndi

    Bought some & very excited to give it a try! These almond flour Keto breads are just not gettin for me & my family!

    Reply
  15. Maryon Wright

    Do we have any knowledge today on how the hull was separated when this grain was used thousands of years ago? Was it sprouted first or what-?? I am just curious about this since you have remarked on the difficulty separating the hull on this specific grain. Thank you for all the education, and for making this food more accessible.

    Reply
    1. Admin

      Hi Maryon, that is a great question. I don’t know exactly how they did it, but I do know it was not easy and is a huge part of why these grains largely disappeared. Farmers favored free threshing wheats because they were much easier to deal with and the hulled grains became obscure.

      Reply
    2. Sarah

      What about a threshing floor? Before there were machines to separate the hull from the grain, they had a threshing floor. They put the grains on the floor and used animals to walk on (or drag a stone across) the grains to separate the hull from the berry. They then used a winnowing fork to scoop and throw up the grain and let the wind blow away the hulls while the berries fell to the floor. You actually see this referenced many times in the Bible (separating the wheat (berry) and the chaff (hull)).

      Reply

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