The ancient grain einkorn is the next big superfood
All ancient grains have health benefits, but einkorn, the eldest of the ancient grains, might just be the best-kept secret among them.
Unlike quinoa, amaranth, and farro, which are all abuzz in the health food world, nobody’s talking about another ancestral wheat, einkorn—but they should be. That’s because it’s basically the next superfood superstar. Besides being higher in protein and fibre, and lower in starch, than regular wheat, einkorn’s chromosomal make-up is also different in a way that makes it safe for most people with a non-celiac disease gluten sensitivity. The gluten in einkorn lacks the type of proteins found in the gluten of regular, modernized wheat that people with a gluten sensitivity can’t digest, making it a natural gluten-sensitive grain alternative. (Try this gluten-free chickpea and chocolate cake.)
You can find einkorn flour and other products online if you search hard enough, but family-owned Jovial Foods, Inc. is pretty much the king of the einkorn scene. That’s probably because it not only makes great products—pasta, flour, crackers, you name it—that taste good, its founders have a very personal connection and journey with the grain.
Carla Bartolucci and her husband, Rodolfo, were both professionals in the organic food industry when their then-two-year-old daughter started feeling sick and exhibiting strange symptoms. But it wasn’t until they moved to Rodolfo’s native Italy when their little one was seven that she got significantly worse. She had frequent colds, tonsillitis, snored at night, got crippling headaches, rashes, stomachaches, and mood swings. “I knew there was something very wrong with her but we couldn’t figure out what it was,” says Bartolucci. “Then I realized that after the move to Italy, she was eating lots more bread and pasta.”
Bartolucci began to suspect that her daughter may be sensitive to gluten but was reluctant to feed her still-growing body gluten-free products that often have not-so-healthy ingredients or additives. “Gluten-free isn’t always the healthiest alternative, so my husband called an Italian research association that told him to try einkorn,” she says. After more research, the couple discovered that while this was the oldest of the ancient grains, its wild supply had remained virtually untouched; it wasn’t extinct, and yet nobody was doing much with it. By a stroke of luck, the Bartoluccis found another Italian researcher who gave them einkorn seeds he happened to have on hand for experiments; the Bartoluccis found a local farmer who agreed to start growing their own personal crop of it.