The Evolution of Wheat - Spelt

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By about 9,000 BP, when the tetraploid Cultivated Emmer had reached an area around the south west of the Caspian Sea, it had entered the natural range of the diploid Goat Grass, Aegilops tauschii, a weed growing in and around the fields of Emmer Wheat. Pollen from this Goat Grass pollinated some of the Emmer and, by amphiploidy, created Spelt, Triticum spelta, the first hexaploid hybrid.

This new hybrid, like the predecessors Emmer Wheat and Goat Grass, had a brittle rachis that fragmented into individual segments, each retaining the grain in a hard shell or 'hull'. Spelt initially occurred in a mixture with Emmer but was later cultivated separately in many parts of Europe. It spread around the north of the Alps before reaching Britain in the Bronze Age, about 3,500 BP and was common in Britain in the Iron Age and early Roman Period. It was later replaced by a free-threshing wheat introduced by the Romans in about 2,000 BP.

Spelt almost disappeared from cultivation but is now grown in some parts of Europe, especially Germany, where it is known as Dinkel, and in smaller quantities in Britain and America. The main use is for the health food market with the grain being milled into flour for bread making, processed into flakes for muesli, or even roasted as a 'coffee' substitute.