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Triticale is not an ancient grain. It was developed only a little more than a century ago. A Scottish botanist in 1875 crossed wheat with rye in hopes of creating a grain with good baking qualities and the high yield of wheat and the high protein content of rye. Later in the 1950's, newer research led to greater improvements in the new grain called triticale.
Michael T. Murray, ND, Naturopathic Medicine, answeredTriticale is a hybrid of wheat and rye. It is thought to contain the best of both grains and is attracting much interest due to its higher protein content compared to wheat. Triticale's genetic inheritance from rye enables it to withstand cold temperatures, drought, and acidic soils that would devastate wheat, while its wheat genes donate a high level of disease resistance, a high yield, and a gluten content that, while lower than wheat's, is sufficient to enable triticale to be used alone to bake bread. However, triticale requires fertile, well-watered soil for best growth; yields less grain per acre than wheat; and is susceptible to ergot.
Triticale resembles wheat in size, shape, and color, although triticale produces a grain that is longer and slightly darker in color than wheat and plumper than rye. But each plant produces fewer grains, so its yield per acre has been less than wheat's. Within the last few years, however, new cultivars of triticale have been developed that match wheat's yield in optimal environments and outperform wheat in marginal ones. Though triticale can be used alone to bake bread, it contains less gluten than wheat and, as a result, produces a squat, heavy loaf. New cultivars are also addressing this deficiency. The key factor in producing light-textured breads is the gluten quality of the flour. The desirable gluten traits in modern bread wheats have been successfully obtained through many years of intensive cultivar development, but little or no effort has been made to encourage similar gluten traits in other grains until recently. In the past ten years, a number of studies have been focused on the gluten quality of not only triticale but the ancient grains einkorn, emmer, and spelt as well. Studies of wheat gluten suggest that specific genes encode for the gluten protein subunits that are responsible for its good bread making qualities. These same gluten subunits are also found in triticale and the ancient grains, so cereal researchers are working with cultivars in which these gluten subunits are enhanced. These new cultivars of triticale and other grain alternatives to wheat will have not only their own pleasing flavors but the high, light texture now provided only by wheat.