Spelt (Triticum aestivum ssp. spelta) also known as dinkel wheat or hulled wheat, is a species of wheat (Triticum aestivum ssp. aestivum) that has been cultivated for over 8000 years. Common in Europe from the Bronze Age to the Medieval Ages, it survives now as a specialty crop in Central Europe and northern Spain.
According to genetic studies it originated as a naturally occurring hybrid of the early wild wheat (emmer; Triticum turgidum) and the wild goat-grass (Aegilops tauschii) even before the appearance of the common bread wheat. Its nutritive value is considered equal if not higher than common wheat. It seems to be resistant to environmental conditions where common wheat does not proper, having even lower nitrogen requirements.
It still retains however most of its characteristics from the past since it has not been genetically improved as intensely. It yields less per hectare, the stems/grain ratio is higher, and it requires additional dehulling than common flour wheat since these hulls represent close to 30% of the kernel.
Spelt is trendy as a healthy food
The recent world “healthy foods” movement has drawn attention back to this species, particularly in Austria, Germany, and Austria, as a specialty flour for human consumption. In other European countries however, it is still utilized as animal fodder particularly in its hulled form. There are also byproducts obtained from its processing for human food that can also be used as ruminant feed.