Smelt imageSpelt: the silent killer?

UPDATE: This is an April Fools’ Day article, entirely made up, from the the baldness and gout to the lashed legionnaire. As far as we know, you can eat your spelt in good health and conscience. Phew.

Every year, thousands of Americans reject wheat and turn instead to spelt, an ancient grain. Are they making a grave error?

First, a bit of context. Domesticated from wild grasses in the Fertile Crescent (present-day Iraq) some 10,000 years ago, spelt eventually, after generations of seed selection by farmers, mutated into wheat. But even as new derivatives spun off, spelt germoplasm was preserved and remained in use over the millennia. The Romans prized it. Julius Caesar is said to have insisted on having it for breakfast mushed into a kind of porridge. In his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon reports that the emperor once had a decorated legionnaire lashed mercilessly for the crime of feeding spelt mush to his horse.