What is emmer?

Old types of grain such as emmer, einkorn and  spelt  are becoming increasingly popular in organic cuisine and organic farming. “The desire for unadulterated  food  and biodiversity have increased the demand for ancient grains in recent years.  Emmer in particular, which is closely related to  durum wheat  , plays an important role in this change in awareness,” says agricultural engineer Peter Jantsch, who has been involved with the scientific research on einkorn and emmer.

Emmer: history

Emmer was already cultivated in the Middle East 10,000 years ago and served as a staple food for humans. “Increasing prosperity changed eating habits over time from porridge and flatbread to finer baked goods, which were easier to produce with bread wheat. Due to its baking properties, but also because of the low harvest yield, cultivation decreased more and more until the emmer began of the 20th century finally disappeared completely from the fields,” says Jantsch.

Renaissance of a grain

The ancient grain has only experienced a renaissance since the 1990s and is being cultivated again on a small scale, especially in southern Germany and Switzerland. Emmer, which is available as a summer and winter grain, is characterized by a nutty to savory  taste  and is suitable for the production of beer,  bread , wholemeal pastries and pasta.

The ancient grain also has a lot to offer from a nutritional point of view. “Emmer is a grain that is very rich in minerals. Compared to conventional wheat, emmer has a slightly higher iron and magnesium value and a significantly higher zinc content,” says the agricultural engineer.

According to the expert, grain has potential not only in terms of healthy nutrition. In order to preserve biological diversity and find alternative crops that are prepared for climate change, black emmer in particular – a variety with black husk – will gain in importance in the future. Because the dark blue plant pigments (anthocyanins) protect the grain particularly well against UV rays. So far, only organic shops and health food stores occasionally offer emmer and einkorn.


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