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What Are Spelt Berries?

O. Parker
O. Parker

Spelt berries are an ancient type of wheat berry. The berry is the plump seed that exists before it is ground into flour or sprouted. Spelt is identified under the scientific name Triticum spelta and belongs to the Poaceae, or grass plant, family. Spelt berries offer an alternative for some people who suffer from wheat allergies or intolerances.

Spelt flour can be traced back to 5000 BC. It is an ancient cross between Einkorn wheat, Triticum boeoticum and a grass called Triticum tauschid. Spelt originated in Iran and spread throughout the Roman Empire.

Spelt berries.
Spelt berries.

Spelt is an annual grain crop that is widely cultivated in parts of Europe and in the United States. It grows well in deep soil with good drainage, and a spot in full sun is critical for a good crop. The berries can be sown in the spring, as soon as the last frost date passes. The seeds germinate and emerge within three to four days. The crop ripens for harvest in late summer and early fall.

A good crop of spelt needs deep soil with good drainage and full sun.
A good crop of spelt needs deep soil with good drainage and full sun.

Though a close relative of modern wheat varieties, people who cannot tolerate wheat can often tolerate spelt. This ancient grain provides more complete nutrition, because it has not been heavily bred for production the way modern wheat strains have. Spelt berries are high in several important B vitamins, including B2, niacin and thiamin. It also contains copper and manganese. Spelt is higher in protein than modern wheat varieties and provides a good source of fiber.

Spelt berries can be boiled, sprouted or ground into spelt flour. The rich, nutty flavor lends itself well to a variety of grain dishes and baked goods. As a cereal grain, spelt berries can be boiled whole for a protein-rich grain dish. Flour made from spelt berries can be used in any way regular wheat would be used, including in pasta, bread and cereal.

Before cooking spelt berries, they should be rinsed and soaked for eight hours to soften the tough seed coat. A combination of one part spelt berries and three parts water works well. As an alternative to water, vegetable or chicken stock makes a flavorful cooking liquid for those berries intended for savory dishes.

Home grinders make it possible to have fresh flour as needed. Spelt flour also can be purchased at specialty food stores. The increasing demand for an alternative to regular wheat products is creating a market for spelt bread, crackers, cereal and other prepared foods.

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Discussion Comments


It is becoming easier to find spelt than it used to be. I can buy spelt flour in the health food section of my local grocery store. If I want to buy the berries, I usually have to look online or go to a specialty store.

There are several reasons I love this ancient grain, and one of them is because it is so nutritious. I also like a nutty flavor to my bread and spelt naturally gives this.

When you bake a loaf of bread with spelt berries, you know you are getting a healthy loaf of bread. I can always tell just by the weight of the loaf of bread in my hand whether it is made with whole grains or not.

I have never been disappointed in the texture or flavor of anything I have used spelt berries for.


I really enjoy making my own bread and using a variety of grains. While I don't have any kind of wheat or gluten intolerance, I like to use something different than whole wheat all the time.

I usually always have a supply of spelt berries on hand. I buy these from my health food coop and store them in the freezer. When I am ready to bake some bread, I grind the berries in my Vita Mix and have fresh flour for bread.

I have made bread using only spelt berries, but usually like to combine it with whole wheat or Kamut grain for an interesting, hearty flavor.


I spend a lot of time at a health food store close to my hose and I have seen an explosion of spelt berry products come out over the last few years.

The gluten free fad seems to be here to stay and marketers have rushed to get wheat alternatives onto the shelves. It is my understanding that most of these are pretty weak imitations of the original. But I have a friend that swears by spelt berry and I'm starting to believe her. You go into the store and they have spelt berry brownies, cookies, breads, crackers, anything you can think of.


I really like to eat spelt berry porridge in the mornings with a little butter and honey or else some blueberries. It has a slightly different flavor than oat meal but it is just as cheap and healthy. Anyone that like a hot cereal on a cold winter morning should consider this often overlooked grain.


I have a severe gluten intolerance but I can eat spelt berries without a problem. And this is a great thing because they are a very close approximation of wheat.

It was only after a few years of not eating gluten that I came across the spelt berry. I had resigned myself to basically never eating anything that tasted like a regular piece of bread again. But spelt berry flour is a remarkable substitute and I use it in lots of different recipes. It has opened up a whole world of food to me once again.

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    • Spelt berries.
      By: al62
      Spelt berries.
    • A good crop of spelt needs deep soil with good drainage and full sun.
      By: Johan Larson
      A good crop of spelt needs deep soil with good drainage and full sun.