WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO GO BACK TO THE LOCAL AND ANCIENT WHEAT?
The term “ancient wheat” is a “marketing” term recently widely used to refer to a range of wheat which is actually ANCIENT. It has been the base of the Mediterranean diet for centuries (before being replaced by contemporary varieties of wheat) and has now been reevaluated for its specific nutritional features and its capacity to adapt to the organic productive method.
Generally, we eat the most common type “0” or “00” soft wheat flour from which we produce bread, pasta, bakery products, cakes and so on.
This flour, however, is obtained from wheat produced on a large scale, which is selected and then modified in order to have a high production but a low nutritional value.
Most of the Italian bread and pasta that we find in supermarkets are actually not produced using Italian wheat: after the Second World War most of this wheat came from north America (an example is the Manitoba wheat which is from Canada) and Russia.
It is important to note that it was exactly from that moment that the first cases of coeliac disease and gluten intolerance appeared, especially since wheat contains a lot of gluten apart from being mutated by neutron and gas rays irradiation.
LET’S REDISCOVER THE ANCIENT WHEAT
We call “ancient wheat” all the varieties from the past which have remained pure and have not been modified or mutated by man in order to improve yield.
Talking about agricultural patrimony, we can, for example, mention a type called “Senatore Cappelli”, the authentic one, with the tall trunk, unchanged; and another named “Dauno”, amongst the most common in Puglia and all over Italy even if there are others from different Italian regions (such as the emmer, the Einkon wheat, the “Saragolla” wheat which are representative of the original durum wheat).
The “Senatore Cappelli” wheat is a durum wheat widespread in the past especially in the region of Puglia and Basilicata.
The agrarian reform, which was promoted by Senator Cappelli, led to the distinction between soft and durum wheat.
This wheat is completely contamination-free unlike other irradiated types which are now available on the market.
The plant is 1.80m tall (higher than the common varieties) and it contains a higher percentage of lipids, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, moreover, it is highly digestible.
There are many historical references and testimony gathered from cereal farms that underline the importance of extending this ancient durum wheat as a main ingredient to pasta.
Unfortunately, this variety is not used anymore because it has been substituted by more productive wheat, which is shorter and newer and planted mainly in small plantations near the southern Apennines and in the hinterland of Lucania. These small plantations are suitable for small production chain linked to the production of local products.
WHY “SENATORE CAPPELLI” WHEAT?
1. Firstly because the Cappelli wheat is an “awned” wheat (that is, it contains awns which are typical of graminaceous plants) and it is very hard so the pasta remains always “al dente ” and never overcooks;
2. Secondly because it is farmed in the same unspoilt areas in the hinterland of Puglia or in some uncontaminated hilly zones of Lucania;
3. Finally because our Cappelli wheat is exactly like the original one, it has never been modified so it does not develop food allergies or intolerances.
WHY THIS WHEAT VARIETY FROM OUR TERRITORY?
WHY SHOULD WE PRIORITISE ITS CONSUMPTION?
There are several reasons:
1. It has not been altered: the ancient wheat has never been genetically modified, so it has a much lower yield in comparison to the most common wheat used nowadays. The spikes are tall and dark and it has irregular grains. It is not produced on an intensive basis and that is why it is consequently more expensive even if more genuine and healthier in the attempt to preserve the traditional taste and content;
2. It is not refined: the ancient wheat is usually produced using mill grinds and so the flour produced is much less refined than the one we use today. Thanks to this process we have a whole wheat flour that is different from the types “0” and “00” flour and which maintains all the nutritional properties of the grains;
3. It contains less gluten: the alteration of the modern wheat has made it richer in gluten, hence it is not suitable for our bodies, whereas the ancient wheat has a more balanced relationship between gluten and starch;
4. It is lighter and more digestible: as the ancient wheat has less gluten, its flour and all the derived products are easier to digest. They are suitable for all kinds of food and they are also good for children’s diet. “Ancient wheat” contains higher percentages of lipids, amino acids, vitamins and minerals and that is why it is more digestible. In conclusion it is great for our health;
5. It prevents the development of food intolerances: gluten sensitivity, which is becoming increasingly common, is probably the result of an over-consumption of modern wheat that is rich in gluten. The benefit of eating more ancient wheat and gluten-free food is to prevent the likelihood of developing gluten sensitivity;
6. It is good and fine: the ancient wheat varieties have the real taste and smell of the original wheat. Moreover, they are mainly produced in small farms and therefore have a higher quality;
7. We can help small producers: especially thanks to them, we can now rediscover this ancient wheat. These farmers face global competition daily and they bravely choose to cultivate quality wheat even if it is not valuable in terms of money and that is why we need to help them to survive;
8. Short supply chain: if we buy ancient wheat we support the short food supply chain and so we avoid buying Italian or foreign products produced on a large scale. Obviously, since there are several kinds of ancient wheat, it is recommended to buy a local production. You can directly ask local farmers for suggestions;
9. Biodiversity protection: biodiversity is a very important factor. If we buy ancient wheat we help to preserve our local biodiversity;
10. Historical and cultural value: apart from protecting and preserving biodiversity, it is vital to let the ancient wheat live for its historical and cultural value. Ancient population supported themselves thanks to these cereals which varied according to geographic location and environmental condition. Nowadays more than ever, in our globalised world, it is necessary to set rules: the Protecting Geographic Indication (PGI) can safeguard the Italian food patrimony and preserve the origin of our lands.