Spelt, or Triticum aestivum var. spelta, has a complicated past of unsure, but ancient, parentage. Recently, spelt has moved beyond the health food store into the aisles of mainstream grocery stores. Spelt flour, with its high fiber content, has become popular to use in breads and pastas. The taste of items made with spelt flour is nutty, but mellowed by a sweet caramelized onion flavor. This ancient grain — which is a type of wheat — has found a new audience since some consumers with wheat sensitivities can digest it. But spelt is not gluten-free. It contains a moderate amount of gluten, so it is not suitable for those who cannot consume gluten, such as those with celiac disease.
Spelt is known as an environmentally friendly crop and can be grown in North Carolina, according to the findings of the North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Its North Carolina Organic Grain Project notes that spelt is growing in demand, but that little research has been conducted.
Off-site baked spelt bread has long been available in area grocery stores, and the nationwide trend is to use spelt flour in cakes and cookies. In Charlotte, The Great Harvest Bread Co. (901 S. Kings Drive; 6420 Rea Road; www.greatharvestcharlotte.com) bakes a whole grain spelt loaf ($5.95) made exclusively with organic spelt flour, yeast, honey, and salt on the first Wednesday of each month.
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