Spelt was originally grown in Iran around 5000 to 6000 B.C. Spelt has been grown in Europe for over 300 years and grown in North America for just over 100 years. The vast majority of North American spelt is grown in Ohio. It is often used as a substitute feed grain replacing oats and barley but has gained popularity as a dietary grain due to its high protein and nutrition content.
Spelt is similar in appearance to wheat. It has a tougher husk than wheat, which may help to protect its nutrients. As a result, spelt contains more protein than wheat and the protein is easier to digest.
Spelt can generally be used as a wheat substitute for those with intolerance to wheat. Spelt contains gluten so be aware that it is not a gluten-free grain. If you enjoy a gluten-free diet now, this recipe may not work for you. If it does, feel free to substitute spelt in recipes that call for wheat berries.
Here’s a great fall dish that I like to make about this time of year as a change of pace. It is full of spelt’s nutty flavor and loaded with nutrition. The recipe makes a ton of salad so you can share some with your friends and neighbors.
2 cups dried spelt
3 pounds butternut squash (peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup pumpkin seeds (roasted)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a medium saucepot, combine spelt, a pinch of salt and about 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 50 – 60 minutes or until spelt is tender but still a little chewy. Rinse spelt in a colander under cold water. Set aside.
Meanwhile, put cubed squash in a large baggie. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Close and shake baggie to evenly coat squash with olive oil. Empty the squash on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for about 50 minutes. Remove squash from oven, sprinkle with minced shallot and return to oven. Cook for an additional 15 minutes, until squash is soft and starting to brown. Do not allow squash to get crispy. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine cider vinegar, maple syrup and Dijon mustard, stir with a whisk. Whisking constantly, drizzle in remaining 1/4 cup olive oil.
In a large bowl, combine cooked spelt, roasted squash, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds and thyme, stir to combine. Drizzle with cider vinaigrette and stir to combine completely. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving. May also be served at room temperature.