Einkorn wheat

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Einkorn wheat
Triticum monococcum0.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Subfamily: Pooideae
Genus: Triticum
T. monococcum
Binomial name
Triticum monococcum
Triticum monococcum - MHNT

Einkorn wheat (from German Einkorn, literally "single grain") can refer either to the wild species of wheat, Triticum boeoticum, or to the domesticated form, Triticum monococcum. The wild and domesticated forms are either considered separate species, as here, or as subspecies: Triticum monococcum subsp. boeoticum (wild) and T. monococcum subsp. monococcum (domesticated). Einkorn is a diploid species (2n = 14 chromosomes) of hulled wheat, with tough glumes ('husks') that tightly enclose the grains. The cultivated form is similar to the wild, except that the ear stays intact when ripe and the seeds are larger. The domestic form is known as "petit épeautre" in French, "Einkorn" in German, "einkorn" or "littlespelt" in English, "piccolo farro" in Italian and "escanda menor" in Spanish.[1] The name refers to the fact that each spikelet contains only one grain.

Einkorn wheat was one of the first plants to be domesticated and cultivated. The earliest clear evidence of the domestication of einkorn dates from 10,600 to 9,900 years before present (8650 BCE to 7950 BCE) from Çayönü and Cafer Höyük, two Early Pre-Pottery Neolithic B archaeological sites in southern Turkey.[2] Remnants of einkorn were found with the iceman mummy Ötzi, dated to 3100 BCE.[3]


Wild einkorn, Karadag, central Turkey

Einkorn wheat commonly grows wild in the hill country in the northern part of the Fertile Crescent and Anatolia although it has a wider distribution reaching into the Balkans and south to Jordan near the Dead Sea. It is a short variety of wild wheat, usually less than 70 centimetres (28 in) tall and is not very productive of edible seeds.[citation needed]

The principal difference between wild einkorn and cultivated einkorn is the method of seed dispersal. In the wild variety the seed head usually shatters and drops the kernels (seeds) of wheat onto the ground. This facilitates a new crop of wheat. In the domestic variety, the seed head remains intact. While such a mutation may occasionally occur in the wild, it is not viable there in the long term: the intact seed head will only drop to the ground when the stalk rots, and the kernels will not scatter but form a tight clump which inhibits germination and makes the mutant seedlings susceptible to disease. But harvesting einkorn with intact seed heads was easier for early human harvesters, who could then manually break apart the seed heads and scatter any kernels not eaten. Over time and through selection, conscious or unconscious, the human preference for intact seed heads created the domestic variety, which also has slightly larger kernels than wild einkorn. Domesticated einkorn thus requires human planting and harvesting for its continuing existence.[4] This process of domestication might have taken only 20 to 200 years with the end product a wheat easier for humans to harvest.[5]

Karaca Dağ
Karaca Dağ is located in Turkey
Karaca Dağ
Karaca Dağ
Highest point
Coordinates37°40′12″N 39°49′48″E / 37.67000°N 39.83000°E / 37.67000; 39.83000

Einkorn wheat is one of the earliest cultivated forms of wheat, alongside emmer wheat (T. dicoccum). Hunter gatherers in the Fertile Crescent may have started harvesting einkorn as early as 30,000 years ago, according to archaeological evidence from Syria.[6][7][8] Although gathered from the wild for thousands of years, einkorn wheat was first domesticated approximately 10,000 years BP in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) or B (PPNB) periods.[9] Evidence from DNA fingerprinting suggests einkorn was first domesticated near Karaca Dağ in southeast Turkey, an area in which a number of PPNB farming villages have been found.[10] One theory by Yuval Noah Harari suggests that the domestication of einkorn was linked to intensive agriculture to support the nearby Göbekli Tepe site.[11]

An important characteristic facilitating the domestication of einkorn and other annual grains is that the plants are largely self-pollinating. Thus, the desirable (for human management) traits of einkorn could be perpetuated at less risk of cross-fertilization with wild plants which might have traits – e.g. smaller seeds, shattering seed heads, etc. – less desirable for human management.[12]

From the northern part of the Fertile Crescent, the cultivation of einkorn wheat spread to the Caucasus, the Balkans, and central Europe. Einkorn wheat was more commonly grown in cooler climates than emmer wheat, the other domesticated wheat. Cultivation of einkorn in the Middle East began to decline in favor of emmer wheat around 2000 BC. Cultivation of einkorn was never extensive in Italy, southern France, and Spain. Einkorn continued to be cultivated in some areas of northern Europe throughout the Middle Ages and until the early part of the 20th century.[13]

Einkorn vs. common modern wheat varieties[edit]

Associations of wild cereals and other wild grasses in northern Israel

Einkorn wheat is low-yielding but can survive on poor, dry, marginal soils where other varieties of wheat will not. It is primarily eaten boiled in whole grains or in porridge.[13]

Einkorn, as with other ancient varieties of wheat, is grouped with "the covered wheats" as its kernels do not break free from its seed coat (glume) with threshing and it is, therefore, difficult to separate the husk from the seed.[14]

Current use[edit]

Einkorn is a popular food in northern Provence (France).[15] It is also used for bulgur or as animal feed in mountainous areas of France, India, Italy, Morocco, the former Yugoslavia, Turkey and other countries.[14]

Nutrition and gluten[edit]

Einkorn contains gluten and has a higher percentage of protein than modern red wheats and is considered more nutritious because it also has higher levels of fat, phosphorus, potassium, pyridoxine, and beta-carotene.[14]

Salt-tolerance gene[edit]

Australian scientists have succeeded in breeding the salt-tolerance feature of T. monococcum into durum wheat.[16]



  1. ^ Le Brun, Alain (Centre national de la recherche scientifique (França) (1992). "El poblamiento neolítico en la Isla de Chipre: el establecimiento de Khirokitia". Treballs d'Arqueologia (2): 51–67. ISSN 1134-9263.open access
  2. ^ Weiss, Ehud and Zohary, Daniel (October 2011), "The Neolithic Southwest Asian Founder Crops: Their Biology and Archaeobotany", Current Anthropology, Vol 52, No. S4, pp. S239-S240. Downloaded from JSTOR
  3. ^ "5,300 Years Ago, Ötzi the Iceman Died. Now We Know His Last Meal". Science & Innovation. 2018-07-12. Retrieved 2019-07-31.
  4. ^ Weiss and Zohary, p. S239-S242
  5. ^ Anderson, Patricia C. (1991), "Harvesting of Wild Cereals During the Natufian as seen from Experimental Cultivation and Harvest of Wild Einkorn Wheat and Microwear Analysis of Stone Tools", In Natufian Culture in the Levant ed. by Ofer Bar-Yosef, Ann Arbor:International Monographs in Prehistory. p. 523
  6. ^ Arranz-Otaegui, A., Carretero, L. G., Ramsey, M. N., Fuller, D. Q., & Richter, T. (2018). "Archaeobotanical evidence reveals the origins of bread 14,400 years ago in northeastern Jordan." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. doi:10.1073/pnas.1801071115
  7. ^ "Crops evolving ten millennia before experts thought". ScienceDaily. 23 October 2017. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  8. ^ Allaby R, Stevens C, Leilani L, Maeda O, Fuller D (Oct 2017). "Geographic mosaics and changing rates of cereal domestication". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. 372 (1735): 20160429. doi:10.1098/rstb.2016.0429. PMC 5665816. PMID 29061901.
  9. ^ Zohary, Daniel; Hopf, Maria; Weiss, Ehud (2012). Domestication of Plants in the Old World: The Origin and Spread of Domesticated Plants in Southwest Asia, Europe, and the Mediterranean Basin (Fourth ed.). Oxford: University Press. p. 38. ISBN 9780199549061.
  10. ^ Heun, M.; Schäfer-Pregl, R.; Klawan, D.; Castagna, R.; Accerbi, M.; Borghi, B.; Salamini, F. (1997). "Site of Einkorn Wheat Domestication Identified by DNA Fingerprinting". Science. 278 (5341): 1312–1314. Bibcode:1997Sci...278.1312H. doi:10.1126/science.278.5341.1312.
  11. ^ Harari, Yuval N. (10 February 2015). Sapiens : a brief history of humankind. Harari, Yuval N.,, Purcell, John (Translator),, Watzman, Haim (First U.S. ed.). New York. ISBN 978-0-06-231609-7. OCLC 896791508.
  12. ^ Bellwood, Peter (2005), First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies, Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, pp. 46-49
  13. ^ a b Hopf, M.; Zohary, D. (2000). Domestication of Plants in the Old World: The Origin and Spread of Cultivated Plants in West Asia, Europe, and the Nile Valley (3rd ed.). Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press. pp. 33–43. ISBN 0-19-850356-3.
  14. ^ a b c Stallknecht, G. F., Gilbertson, K. M., and Ranney, J.E. (1996), "Alternative Wheat Cereals as Food Grains: Einkorn, Emmer, Spelt, Kamut, and Triticale" in J. Janick, ed., Progress in New Crops, Alexandria, VA: ASHA Press, pp. 156-170
  15. ^ Payany, E (2011). Le Petit Épeautre. LaPlage. ISBN 978-2-84221-283-4.
  16. ^ "World Breakthrough On Salt-Tolerant Wheat". ScienceDaily. March 11, 2012.

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