Emmer wheat, also known as farro especially in Italy, or hulled wheat, is a type of awned wheat. The domesticated species are Triticum turgidum subsp. dicoccum and Triticum turgidum conv. durum. The wild species is called Triticum turgidum subsp. dicoccoides. The principal difference between the wild and the domestic species is that the ripened seed head of the wild species shatters and spreads the seed onto the ground while in the domesticated emmer the seed head remains intact, thus making it easier for humans to harvest the grain.
Along with Einkorn wheat, Emmer was one of the first crops domesticated in the Near East. It was widely cultivated in the ancient world, but is now a relict crop in mountainous regions of Europe and Asia. Its value lies in its ability to give good yields on poor soils, and its resistance to fungal diseases such as stem rust that are prevalent in wet areas. Emmer is grown in Armenia, Morocco, Spain (Asturias), the Carpathian mountains on the border of the Czech and Slovak republics, Albania, Turkey, Switzerland, Germany, Greece and Italy. It is also grown in the U.S. as a speciality product. A traditional food plant in Ethiopia, this relatively little-known grain has potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare.
In Italy, uniquely, emmer cultivation is well established and even expanding. In the mountainous Garfagnana area of Tuscany emmer (known as farro) is grown by farmers as an IGP product, (see Farro della Garfagnanawith its geographic identity protected by law. Production is certified by a co-operative body, the Consorzio Produttori Farro della Garfagnana. IGP-certified farro is widely available in health food shops across Europe, and even in some British supermarkets. The demand for Italian farro has led to competition from non-certified farro, grown in lowland areas and often consisting of a different wheat species, spelt (Triticum spelta).
Emmer's main use is as a human food, though it is also used for animal feed. Ethnographic evidence from Turkey and other emmer-growing areas suggests that emmer makes good bread (judged by the taste and texture standards of traditional bread), and this is supported by evidence of its widespread consumption as bread in ancient Egypt. Emmer bread is available in the Netherlands and Switzerland. In Italy, whole emmer grains can be easily found in most supermarkets and groceries, emmer bread (pane di farro) can be found in bakeries in some areas, and emmer has traditionally been consumed in Tuscany as whole grain in soup. Higher in fibre than common wheat, emmer's use for making pasta is a recent response to the health food market; some consumers, however, judge that emmer pasta has an unattractive texture. Emmer has also been used in beer production.
As with all varieties and hybrids of wheat, emmer is unsuitable for people with gluten-related disorders, such as celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity and wheat allergy sufferers, among others.