Spelt (Triticum spelta; Triticum dicoccum<ref>Zohar Amar, Five Types of Grain: Historical, Halachic, and Conceptual Aspects (Ḥameshet Mine Dagan), Har Bracha 2011, pp. 45–48 Template:ISBN (Hebrew).</ref>), also known as dinkel wheat<ref name=GRIN>Template:GRIN</ref> or hulled wheat,<ref name=GRIN/> is a species of wheat cultivated since approximately 5000 BC.
Spelt was an important staple in parts of Europe from the Bronze Age to medieval times; it now survives as a relict crop in Central Europe and northern Spain, and has also found a new market as a 'health food'. Spelt is sometimes considered a subspecies of the closely related species common wheat (Triticum aestivum), in which case its botanical name is considered to be Triticum aestivum subsp. spelta. It is a hexaploid wheat, which means it has six sets of chromosomes.
Spelt has a complex history. It is a wheat species known from genetic evidence to have originated as a naturally occurring hybrid of a domesticated tetraploid wheat such as emmer wheat and the wild goat-grass Aegilops tauschii. This hybridisation must have taken place in the Near East because this is where Aegilops tauschii grows, and it must have taken place before the appearance of common or bread wheat (Triticum aestivum, a hexaploid free-threshing derivative of spelt) in the archaeological record about 8,000 years ago.Template:Synthesis inline
Genetic evidence shows that spelt wheat can also arise as the result of hybridisation of bread wheat and emmer wheat, although only at some date following the initial Aegilops–tetraploid wheat hybridisation. The much later appearance of spelt in Europe might thus be the result of a later, second, hybridisation between emmer and bread wheat. Recent DNA evidence supports an independent origin for European spelt through this hybridisation.<ref name=Blatter>Template:Cite journal</ref> Whether spelt has two separate origins in Asia and Europe, or single origin in the Near East, is currently unresolved.<ref name=Blatter/><ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
In Greek mythology spelt (ζειά [zeiá] in Greek) was a gift to the Greeks from the goddess Demeter. The earliest archaeological evidence of spelt is from the fifth millennium BC in Transcaucasia, north-east of the Black Sea, though the most abundant and best-documented archaeological evidence of spelt is in Europe.<ref name=autogenerated1>Template:Cite journal</ref> Remains of spelt have been found in some later Neolithic sites (2500–1700 BC) in Central Europe.<ref name=autogenerated1 /><ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> During the Bronze Age, spelt spread widely in central Europe. In the Iron Age (750–15 BC), spelt became a principal wheat species in southern Germany and Switzerland, and by 500 BC, it was in common use in southern Britain.<ref name=autogenerated1 />
References to the cultivation of spelt wheat in Biblical times (see matzo), in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia and in ancient Greece are incorrect and result from confusion with emmer wheat.<ref>Template:Cite journal.</ref>
In the Middle Ages, spelt was cultivated in parts of Switzerland, Tyrol, Germany, northern France and the Netherlands.<ref>Bakels, Corrie C. (Dec 2005), "Crops produced in the southern Netherlands and northern France during the early medieval period: a comparison," Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, pp. 394-399</ref> Spelt became a major crop in Europe in the 9th century CE, possibly because it is husked, unlike other grains, and therefore more adaptable to cold climates and is more suitable for storage.<ref>Newfield, Timothy P. (2013), "The Contours, Frequency and Causation of Subsistence Crises in Carolingian Europe (750-950 CE)" in Crisis Alimentarian en la Edad Media, Lleida, Spain: Universidad de Lleida, p. 170</ref>
Spelt was introduced to the United States in the 1890s. In the 20th century, spelt was replaced by bread wheat in almost all areas where it was still grown. The organic farming movement revived its popularity somewhat toward the end of the century, as spelt requires less fertilizer. Since the beginning of the 21st century, spelt became a common wheat substitute for making artisanal breads, pastas, and flakes.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
In a 100 gram serving, uncooked spelt provides 338 calories and is an excellent source (20% or more of the Daily Value) of protein, dietary fiber, several B vitamins and numerous dietary minerals (table). Richest nutrient contents include manganese (143% DV), phosphorus (57% DV) and niacin (46% DV). Spelt contains about 70% total carbohydrates, including 11% as dietary fibre, and is low in fat (table).
Spelt contains gluten and is therefore suitable for baking, but this component also makes it unsuitable for people with gluten-related disorders,<ref name=TovoliMasi>Template:Cite journal</ref> such as celiac disease,<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergy.<ref name=TovoliMasi /> In comparison to hard red winter wheat, spelt has a more soluble protein matrix characterized by a higher gliadin:glutenin ratio.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref><ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>
In Germany and Austria, spelt loaves and rolls (Dinkelbrot) are widely available in bakeries as is spelt flour in supermarkets. The unripe spelt grains are dried and eaten as Grünkern ("green grain").
Dutch Jenever makers distill with spelt.<ref>Template:Cite book</ref> Beer brewed from spelt is sometimes seen in Bavaria<ref>Dinkelbier Template:Webarchive, German Beer Institute, retrieved November 2009.</ref> and Belgium<ref>Den Mulder, beer from Huisbrouwerij Den Tseut in Oosteeklo, retrieved September 2013.</ref> and spelt is distilled to make vodka in Poland.
Spelt is currently a specialty crop, but its popularity in the past as a peasants' staple food has been attested in literature. Although today's Russian-speaking children perhaps do not know exactly what polba (spelt) looks or tastes like,<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> they may recognize the word as something that can be made into porridge, having heard Pushkin's well-rhymed story in which the poor workman Balda asks his employer the priest "to feed me boiled spelt" ("есть же мне давай варёную полбу").<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> In Horace's Satire 2.6 (late 31–30 BC), which ends with the story of the Country Mouse and the City Mouse, the country mouse eats spelt at dinner while serving his city guest finer foods.
In The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, Pietro della Vigna appears as a suicide in Circle VII, ring ii, Canto XIII of the Inferno. Pietro describes the fate awaiting souls guilty of suicide to Dante the Pilgrim and Virgil. According to Pietro, the soul of the suicide grows into a wild tree and is tormented by harpies that feast upon its leaves. Pietro likens the initial growth and transformation of the soul of the suicide to the germination of a grain of spelt (Inferno XIII, 94–102).
Spelt is also mentioned in the Bible. The seventh plague in Egypt in Exodus, did not damage the harvest of wheat and spelt, as these were "late crops".<ref>Exodus 9:31.</ref> Template:Bibleverse says: "Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and spelt, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof ...", though as noted above this is presumably a mistranslation and should be "emmer". It is mentioned again in Template:Bibleverse: "...and put in the wheat in rows and the barley in the appointed place and the spelt in the border thereof?"