ELK RIVER, MINN. — The glycemic index benefits of emmer wheat and its stories dating to Biblical times came up several times in the Northern Crops Institute’s first annual ancient grains conference held July 20 at the Oliver Kelley Farm outside Elk River.

Emmer, also known as farro, has certain types of phenolics and compounds that are good glycemic inhibitors, which means the grain has glycemic index benefits, said Kalidas Shetty, PhD, a professor of plant sciences at North Dakota State University and founding director of the Global Institute of Food Security and International Agriculture. He wants to see experiments with emmer in chapati, a flatbread popular in India. Perhaps emmer could make up 10% to 20% of a chapati to improve its nutritional profile, Dr. Shetty said.

Durum and emmer both are low FODMAP when compared to other grains, said Andrew Ross, PhD, a professor in the crop and soil science department of Oregon State University. FODMAP stands for fermented oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols, which have been linked to digestive issues. Monash University in Australia certifies food items and ingredients as low FODMAP.

Organic Kaul Farms in Harvey, ND, has grown emmer through several generations of the Kaul family. Lowell Kaul, owner, talked about how emmer dates to Biblical times. It has been found in campfire ashes in the hills around Sodom and Gomorrah. Emmer farro drew its name from the Pharaoh of Egypt.

Emmer farro (Triticum turgidum dicoccum), an ancient strain of wheat, was one of the first cereals ever domesticated in the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East and served as the standard daily ration of Roman legions, according to the Whole Grains Council, Boston. Higher yielding wheat strains had replaced emmer by the beginning of the 20th century except in Ethiopia where it still makes up about 7% of the wheat grown in that country, according to the council.

Hayden Flour Mills, Queen Creek, Ariz., offers emmer farro berries, emmer farro flour and crackers that contain emmer farro. The grain is encased in a tough outer shell, or hull, and is low in gluten and high in protein with a nutty flavor, according to the company. Whole berries may be boiled and added to grain bowls, salads and soups. Farmer’s porridge with cracked emmer farro makes a cream of wheat-style cereal while emmer flour maybe add texture and fiber to baked food and the flour may be baked into cookies, quick bread (like banana bread), crackers and pie crusts, according to Hayden Flour Mills.