Grain of the Week – Khorasan Wheat

April 24, 2014 at 7:48 AM | Posted in Grain of the Week | Leave a comment
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Khorasan wheat

Khorasan wheat


Khorasan wheat or Oriental wheat (Triticum turgidum ssp. turanicum also called Triticum turanicum) is a tetraploid wheat species. It is an ancient grain type; Khorasan refers to a historical region in modern-day Afghanistan and the northeast of Iran. This grain is twice the size of modern-day wheat and is known for its rich nutty flavor.



As an annual, self-fertilized grass that is cultivated for its grains, Khorasan wheat looks very similar to common wheat. However, its grains are twice the size of modern wheat kernel, with a Thousand-kernel Weight up to 60g. They contain more proteins, lipids, amino acids, vitamins and minerals than modern wheat. The grain has an amber colour and a high vitreousness.



The exact origin of Khorasan wheat remains unknown. Described for the first time by Percival in 1921, this ancient grain likely originates from the Fertile Crescent and derives its common name from the Persian province of Khorasan. However, some scientists suggested that it rather germinated in western Anatolia, where the botanical diversity is greater than in Iran. One commonly affirms that Khorasan wheat was reintroduced in modern times thanks to an American airman, who sent grains from Egypt to his family in Montana (USA) in 1949. According to a legend, those grains were found in the tomb of an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh, hence the nickname “King Tut’s Wheat.” It is not known when and how Khorasan wheat was introduced to Egypt. Another legend relates that Noah brings the grain on his ark resulting in the nickname “Prophet’s wheat.” Other legends surmise that it was brought into Egypt by invading armies. Finally, in Turkey, it is nicknamed “Camel’s Tooth” due to its hump back shape or, more probably, because it resembles a camel’s tooth.

Khorasan wheat was probably continuously cultivated at small scales and for personal use in Near East and Central Asia and in Northern Africa. However, it has not been commercially produced in modern times. In 1949, as the grain reached the USA, it did not raise a lot of interest and therefore fell in disuse. In 1977, Mack and Bob Quinn, two farmers from Montana (USA), decided to cultivate this ancient grain. In 1990, they registered the protected cultivated turanicum variety QK-77 as the trademark Kamut ®.

The trademark Kamut and the attention it is now getting on the health food market have resulted in a growing interest from both wheat scientists and producers.



Nowadays, Kamut brand production is the only existing commercial production of Khorasan wheat worldwide(This last statement is false This is the proof: However, Khorasan wheat is still cultivated as food for camels in the Iranian province of Khorasan. It is also probably cultivated in small acreage and for personal use in some other regions of the Middle East.

So far, Kamut wheat is exclusively grown in the USA and Western Canada. Approximately 16,000 acres (6,500 ha) were cultivated in 2006 in north-central Montana, southern Saskatchewan and southeast Alberta. Experimental production has been made in Europe and in Australia.



The actual average yield of Kamut Khorasan wheat is 1.1-1.3 t/ha. In drier years, Khorasan wheat can sometimes yield even more than durum wheat. However, in normal or wet years, it yields approximately 1/3 less than the durum wheat. Certain environmental conditions are essential to a stable yield.



Although Kamut Khorasan wheat is only produced in the USA and Western Canada, it is exported to Asia and Europe. Europe represents almost 70% of the 2006 sales and Italy was the greater consumer. With only 16,000 acres (6,500 ha) cultivated worldwide, Khorasan wheat does not play an important role in the world food system. It nonetheless has a great influence on the organic and healthy food market. By capturing this niche market, Khorasan wheat counterbalances its weak agronomic traits. Between 1998 and 2006 total sales of Kamut wheat increased by 72%.



Khorasan wheat is used similarly as modern wheat. Its grains can be either directly consumed or milled into flour. It can be found in breads, bread mixes, breakfast cereals, cookies, waffles, pancakes, bulgur, baked goods, pastas, drinks, beer and snacks. Apart from its nutritional qualities, Khorasan wheat is well known for its smooth texture and its nutty, buttery flavour. Its content in tannin is lower than modern wheat’s. Hence, it is less bitter. Consumers generally like Khorasan wheat products for their visual appeal, their texture and their moistness.


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