Zea, the emmer wheat

A life giving cereal!

Zea is probably the oldest cereal of this world and stood for a key component in the diet of Ancient Greeks. It features an undeniable nutritional value and it is no coincidence that the etymology of the ancient Greek word “ζείδωρος” (zeidoros) meaning “life giving” comes from this particular cereal.

zeaZea’s scientific name is “Triticum dicoccum” and although it externally looks similar to wheat, it has a different nutritional composition. It is largely referred to as Zeia, Spelt and Emmer, but it shouldn’t however be confused with the German Dinkel or rye.

Zea is highly nutritious and contains important nutrients, which make it superior to other cereals. Zea is two times richer in dietary fiber, in comparison with other wheat, a fact that makes it a good choice for people suffering from diabetes.

In addition, Zea is two times richer in protein and features a high content of the amino acid lysine and vitamins A, B, C and E. Lysine is that particular component of proteins that increases their digestibility, boosts the immune system and it’s a key element for the brain’s biochemical functioning.

Another key advantage of Zea is its high content in magnesium, up to 40% higher in comparison with other cereals. Zea is also very low in gluten, a fact that makes it highly digestible.

zea3The cultivation of Zea seems to go back for more than 12,000 years, as revealed by excavations in prehistoric settlements throughout Greece, and according to historical texts, Alexander the Great’s soldiers would eat Zea, in order to remain strong and healthy.

It seems that Zea’s production was so widespread in antiquity that it is possible that the Port of Zea in Pireus took its name from this cereal because of the related increased trafficking and transactions that took place there.

Until about a century ago, Zea was one of the most popular wheat in Greece, but over the years it seems that more economically profitable cereal crops such as rice or wheat prevailed.

The revival of this ancient variety of emmer wheat is nowadays attempted by a few local producers in Pieria (Damianos Pachopoulos, 0030 23510-83200 & 0030 6947185166) and Larissa (The Antonopoulos Brothers, 0030 24910-93010).

The most common forms in which Zea is marketed today is in paddy flour or pasta made of Zea flour, such as orzo, couscous, penne, tagliatelle and other. It is very tasty, highly nutritious and suitable for every Greek dish, while it’s easy to cook.

MLGFB Tip:

How to make bread with Zea flour

zea2Ingredients: 500 g Zea flour, 300g warm water (2 parts cold and one hot), 1 sachet of dry yeast, 1 tbsp brown sugar, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp salt, a little sesame

Preparation:

  • In a large bowl pour 2 tbsp of flour, all the water, the yeast, the sugar, stir and let the mixture for 15 minutes until it gets frothy. Keep a small glass of flour for later
  • Pour 1 tbsp of oil, sift the remaining flour and stir while adding the salt. Begin kneading and add another tbsp of oil.
  • While the dough is relatively moist, pour on a clean bench the remaining flour that you’ve saved and continue kneading for 10 minutes
  • When finished with kneading store the dough in a covered bowl in a warm place for about 40 minutes
  • When the time is up, put the dough in a pan smeared with oil, add the sesame and a little flour, make a cross on the top of the dough and bake at 180 degrees for 50-60 minutes.
  • 5 minutes before you put the dough in the pan, turn the oven to 180 degrees, put in a clay pot with a little water and leave it throughout the cooking. It will help the baking process.
  • When the bread is ready, wrap it with a towel and let it cool for about 15 minutes before enjoying

This is a MLGFB translation of a Greek recipe from the cooking site “Sintages tis pareas”

Pictures’ Credits:

Picture 1, Picture 2, Picture 3, Header

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