Do Heritage Grains Hold Promise for the Gluten-Sensitive?
The cultivation of ancient grains whose makeup hasn’t been amended as much as modern wheat could allow the gluten-intolerant to have their bread and eat it, too.
There is a growing movement of farmers, scientists, and foodies working to bring back heritage grains—especially those ancient varietals of wheat that were around long before grains were widely hybridized to boost yield and resist disease. Among those who are growing and baking with these heirloom grains, there is a keen interest in einkorn, a nutty and nutritious species of ancient wheat that may be digestible by people with gluten allergies.
Eli Rogosa, the director of the Heritage Wheat Conservancy, has dedicated herself to preserving rare old wheat species and establishing them in a local and organic grain economy in the Northeast. On her farm in Massachusetts, she cultivates rare breeds of grains that come from seed banks all over the world but are hardy enough to thrive in a variety of different environmental conditions.
Einkorn is one of them. A diploid species with 14 chromosomes, einkorn has a different gluten structure than modern wheat (which has 42 chromosomes) and is easier to digest. Rogosa, in partnership with the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, is testing to see if gluten-sensitive celiacs can tolerate the grain. Rogosa is also growing plants on site and organizing conferences with artisan bakers and crop specialists on the farming of heritage wheats in New England. (Ambitious readers can try baking a loaf of sprouted einkorn bread with Rogosa’s recipe.