The ancient grain Spelt is beautiful and a pain in the butt. Like many ancient grains, it has a protective outer layer called a hull. Modern wheats have been selected to not include this hard casing because it requires a cumbersome step in the grain cleaning process to remove.
Let me take you through how it’s a pain.
It’s already an annoyance in the field. It’s super tall, so the deer love to lay in it and use it as bedding. Long stalks characterize many ancient and old grains, which were purposefully selected against when scientists selected modern varieties. Shorter stalks mean less lodging and easier harvesting, which works well for a mechanized farm operation. The longer stalks create an abundance of straw that can be used for mulching, and they’ve captured more atmospheric carbon than the short stalks.
The spelt also grow long beards and consists of hulls that become block up nearly all the combine’s openings. I had to stop every 10 minutes to clear out the various augers and orifices. Now for a closer look.
Let’s compare the relatively younger Red Fife to Spanish Spelt. Red Fife has a chaff, thin outside, but the Spanish Spelt has many layers.
With one peel, the Red Fife is exposed. Red Fife is also super old, about 6,000 years old, but not as old as Spelt. So after layer one, you still have a hard shell around the seed.
I had to break through the layers with my nails to expose the seed. Imagine trying to break through thousands of pounds. Most de-hullers only have a 12% return rate. That means 88% of the product sent through aren’t dehulled!
Why grow Spelt? From a farming perspective, all that straw and carbon sequestration helps retain soil moisture, and the yields and plump berries make it a good crop for market (assuming you can de-hull it!). As an eater, Spelt is incredibly flavorful and unmatched by other grains. These reasons make it worth growing.