A sunny field of Kamut

Khorasan wheat, like emmer/farro, einkorn, and spelt, is an ancient variety of wheat, meaning that it has been largely unchanged by breeding over the last several hundred years. The kernel of khorasan wheat is unusually large compared to other wheat varieties and it was the size of the grain that first caught the eye of 16-year-old Bob Quinn at a Montana county fair in the mid 1960s. Years later, Bob and his father, Mack, decided to track down the seed and start growing it themselves, organically.

A bowl full of Kamut grain

It turned out that this grain was unusual in more ways than one. Its sweet, nutty, buttery flavor was attracting interest from pasta makers, bakers, and consumers alike. Some consumers who thought they were sensitive to modern wheat began reporting that this ancient wheat variety seemed easier to digest, causing less gastrointestinal distress or inflammation than they typically experienced with wheat products. Recognizing that this ancient wheat variety had numerous culinary benefits, as well as potential health advantages, Bob decided to preserve this strain of wheat under a trademarked brand name, KAMUT®, which would protect it from being hybridized or modified. Prioritizing sustainable growing practices, Bob made it a condition of the trademark that any grain branded KAMUT® be grown organically, and that products made with KAMUT® grain or flour also be certified fully organic in order to use the KAMUT® name.

As Bob’s company began to grow, he became more interested in understanding the nutritional characteristics of the grain and began advocating for new research. A few years ago we wrote a blog post about one of the first human clinical trials done to test the effects of KAMUT® wheat versus modern wheat on human health. The study indicated that KAMUT® wheat may contribute to lowering cholesterol as well as reducing levels of certain markers of inflammation compared with modern wheat. While the study was very small (just 22 subjects), the results were compelling enough that a series of other studies have been launched in the convening years, studying the effect of khorasan and other ancient wheats on cardiovascular health, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Photo of family with Kamut Cup trophy
Proud winners of the KAMUT® Cup trophy at the Farmer Appreciation Dinner

Whether because of the unique flavor of KAMUT® wheat, or because of the growing body of research about its nutritional attributes, or perhaps simply because of the posh, trendy position it holds as an ancient grain with a good story, commercial interest in KAMUT® has grown significantly in recent years, with companies from Patagonia to Kashi jumping on board. Today our Whole Grain Stamped product database includes more than a hundred KAMUT® brand products – from pastas, to breads, to cereals, to pilafs – sold by 38 different brands. And as more food manufacturers have started to incorporate this grain into their products, the community of farmers growing the crop in North America has grown to meet the increasing demand. Many of these farmers gather together each winter at the Kamut International Farmer Appreciation Dinner where awards are given, stories are exchanged and best practices are discussed.

If there’s one thing we love here at the WGC, it’s a room full of grainiacs sharing food and connecting with each other. If you and your graniac buddies haven’t yet added khorasan wheat to your culinary repertoire, the holiday baking season is the perfect time to give it a whirl. Wondering where to start? Check out these tips from King Arthur Flour for baking with KAMUT® wheat, and let us know how it goes! (Caroline)

Comments

Malinda Uhlenkott
I would like more information about Kamut. I lived in Eastern Europe for 2 years and found I didn't have my normal digestive problems. When I came back to America I felt sick immediately. I have been feeling great since I don't eat any wheat products anymore. I ate Kamut 3 different times and did not have any problems. I will continue to experiment with this grain.
Caroline-WGC
Enjoy your KAMUT® adventure, Malinda! We're big fans of this grain.
Jamie Lockman
Dear Malinda: I frequently hear stories very similar to yours. Kamut International has a research program that includes data showing that people who suffer from eating regular wheat, can often eat KAMUT(R) wheat without the same issues. Please feel free to reach out to me at jamie.lockman@kamut.com and I can help you find products close to your home or direct you to online resources. Kind regards - Jamie Ryan Lockman Regional Director - North America Kamut International
Kim
Can a Celiac person eat this?
Caroline-WGC
Hi Kim -- Unfortunately, those who suffer from celiac disease must avoid gluten altogether, so KAMUT®, which still contains gluten, is not an option for those with celiac disease.
Keith Beardshear
Does the Kamut wheat variety work for irritable bowel syndrome?
Caroline-WGC
Hi Keith -- We're aware of a study in British Journal of Nutrition (https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/effect-of-triticum-turgidum-subsp-turanicum-wheat-on-irritable-bowel-syndrome-a-doubleblinded-randomised-dietary-intervention-trial/B8F475DFF9F7085B9ACA7B20B1F36E35) that looked at the effects on IBS of replacing modern wheat with Kamut® wheat in the diet. Patients in the study did experience a decrease in the severity of their IBS symptoms when switching to Kamut®. It is important to note, however, that this study used a very small sample size (only 20 participants), so while the results are certainly promising, more research is needed to confirm the results.
Mary Massung
Over the past 10 years, I have begun experiencing digestive pain after consuming any form of bread...including naturally leavened bread. As a last resort, I decided to use Kamut grain. I ground my own and then fully fermented it using a kamut sourdough starter. I fully fermented the dough (water, flour, and sourdough starter) for 14 hours before baking the bread. I have not experienced any digestive pain when eating this bread. On several occasions, I have again tried eating both naturally leavened bread and organic bread. However, after eating it for several days, the digestive pain returned. I have tried combining the Kamut with Einkorn with success (no digestive problems). It would seem that I can easily digest diploids (Einkorn) and tetraploids (Kamut) but not hexaploids. I am 73 years old.
Chase Ambrose
Kamut is not an ancient grain. Tetraploid species that share the A and B genomes with common wheat are emmer (T. turgidum L. ssp. dicoccum Schrank ex Schübl.), durum [T. turgidum L. ssp. durum (Desf.) Husn.], rivet (T. turgidum L. ssp. turgidum), and Khorasan wheat [Triticum turgidum L. ssp. turanicum (Jakubz.) Á. Löve & D. Löve], for which one variety is marketed under the Kamut® trademark. Although durum wheat is not an ancient grain, but a free‐threshing grain primarily used for pasta, it will also be included in this discussion. Spelt [T. aestivum ssp. spelta (L.) Thell.] is a hulled species that shares A, B, and D genomes with common wheat. Reference: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1541-4337.12129
Caroline-WGC
Hi Chase – The article you’re referencing lists Kamut,® and Khorasan varieties in general, as tetraploid species (sharing only the A and B genomes found in common wheat). It states that these tetraploid species are ancient wheat relatives of common wheat. While there is no scientific definition of ancient grains, this article defines them in much the same way that we at the Whole Grains Council do, including varieties like einkorn, emmer, Khorasan (and Kamut®) among those in the “ancient grain” category.

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