information about ancient grain

Strength from an ancient grain

Spelt is one of the first cultivated cereals in human history. Spelt has many excellent nutritional properties, such as its fibre and protein content, and suitability for many people with sensitive stomachs. Spelt can be used in many ways for baking and cooking. The flavour of spelt is excellent, delicious and perhaps slightly nutty.

The history of spelt

Spelt (Triticumspelta) is an old relative of wheat. The earliest archaeological evidence of spelt dates back to about 9000 years. Spelt is thought to be either from Southwest Asia or Southeast Europe/Middle East. Spelt was known in many places in Europe in the late Neolithic period at the latest. During the Bronze Age, its cultivation spread to larger areas; during the Iron Age, it was one of the most important bread grains in many parts of Central Europe.

Ancient Greek athletes favoured spelt, and spelt was the basis of the diet of ancient Romans. Puls, the pottage cooked from rough spelt grains and water, was one of the oldest basic foods in Rome. Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, was believed to have a very special relationship namely with spelt. Spelt also played an important role in Roman festivities. The most important and festive form of a Roman marriage was confarreatio. A part of the wedding ceremony was that the husband and wife sat on a sheepskin rug together and enjoyed spelt bread in the presence of Flamen Dialis (the high priest of Jupiter), Pontifex Maximus (the leader of the Pontifex priesthood) and ten witnesses. This marriage was believed to be unbreakable.

The oldest evidence of spelt cultivation in Finland have been found in the Salo region, dating back to the 4th century AD, i.e. in the same area where the Birkkala Farm is located. Spelt was a common crop in Europe in the Middle Ages,but it was later replaced by crops of higher yield and easier-to-cultivate crops during the Modern Age and Industrialisation. Nevertheless, the traditional cultivation remained, among other places, in the mountainous regions of Germany, where spelt, a crop suitable for rugged terrains, flourished. More than twenty years ago, when we started cultivating spelt at Birkkala Farm, our seeds also arrived from Germany.

There have been many stories associated with spelt throughout the ages. It is said that the army of the Roman Empire marched with energy gained from spelt,and in the 12th century, Hildegard von Bingen, a Benedictine nun, praised the nutritional values of spelt and stated that it contributes to healing all the diseases, even depression.

A selection of sources on the history of spelt

Castren, Paavo 2011,
Uusi antiikin historia, Otava, Helsinki.

Hersch, Karen K. 2010,
The Roman Wedding - Ritual and Meaning in Antiquity. Cambridge University Press.

Hirschfelder, G. 2001,
Europäische Esskultur : eine Geschichte der Ernährung von der Steinzeit bis heute, Campus New York, Frankfurt.

Hänninen, M. & Kahlos, M. 2004, Roomalaista arkea ja juhlaa, Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, Helsinki.

Rasila, V., Jutikkala, E. & Mäkelä-Alitalo, A. 2003,
Suomen maatalouden historia, Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, Helsinki.

Health from spelt

Whole spelt grain is rich in fibre. Studies also show that spelt contains more zinc, phosphorus and thiamine (Vitamin B1) than wheat. Spelt has yet another interesting property: its grains are very tightly attached to the outer shell. The grains must be removed from the husks with a special device before milling. The tight outer shell protects the grains from mechanical damage and perhaps even from environmental impurities.

Nutritional value (100 g)


incl. saturated fattyacids

monounsaturated fattyacids

polyunsaturated fattyacids Carbohydrates
incl. sugars

Energiaa - 320 kcal/1330 kJ
Rasvaa - 2,6 g
josta tyydyttyneitä rasvahappoja - 0,4 g
kertatyydyttymättömiä rasvahappoja - 0,4 g
monityydyttymättömiä rasvahappoja - 1,1 g
Hiilihydraatteja - 59 g
josta sokereita - 2,7 g
Ravintokuitua - 10 g
Proteiinia - 15 g
Natriumia - 0,002 g

320 kcal/1330 kJ
2,6 g

0,4 g

0,4 g

1,1 g
59 g
2,7 g
10 g
15 g
0,002 g


In comparison with wheat, the protein content of spelt is remarkably high. According to a study carried out in Australia, spelt contains fewer specific short-chained carbohydrates (so-called FODMAP carbohydrates) than other grains, which can cause abdominal swelling and pain in some people. Researchers argued that the different carbohydrate composition of spelt is the reason why many people suffering from these symptoms after eating other grains can eat spelt without any swelling or pain.

More informationon the FODMAP diet

Fodmap-ruokavalio auttaa ärtyvän suolen oireyhtymäänSatu Kaaria, Helsingin Sanomat, 12.9.2013

Ravitsemusterapeutti Jenni Lapin haastattelu FODMAP-ruokavaliostaRavitsemusterapeutti Reijo Laatikaisen blogi.

FODMAP -hiilihydraattirajoituksen toteutus ja tehoRavitsemusterapeutti Reijo Laatikaisen blogi.