Kamut is a close relative to wheat whose kernel. Its about the same shape as a wheat seed but a Kamut kernel is more than twice as big. Even though Kamut is very closely related to wheat, many people who are wheat intolerant can eat Kamut with no problems. Kamut also has some pretty amazing nutritional strengths. And as an amazingly versatile grain, Kamut can be used in place of all the different wheats; the hard and soft varieties and also durum wheat.
Kamut's history is as interesting as any grain you can find. Stories abound about how a small sample of this grain was found in the pyramids of Egypt. They were planted and grew. This story revolves around a young Montana airman while stationed in the US Air Force in Portugal. Someone gave, or more likely, sold him 36 kernels of this grain, telling him it came from the pyramids of Egypt. Evidently, the serviceman believed him, and mailed the kernels home to his wheat-farmer dad who planted them. Of the 36 kernels, 32 of them sprouted. After carefully tending these seeds and their offspring for the next 6 years, these 32 kernels had grown to 1,500 bushels. (I did the math, yes it's possible.) This unusual, large kerneled wheat was shown at the county fair and was called "King Tut's Wheat." Bob Quinn, just a boy at the time, was a youngster in the crowd. The grain never really caught on at that time and the farmer ended up feeding it to his cattle. In 1977, Bob, now a agricultural scientist with a Ph.D., remembered that strange looking wheat and after scouring the country side came up with a pint bottle of it. By 1988, Bob had the strain built back up and had generated enough interest in it that he could start marketing it commercially.
Scientists from around the world have inspected Kamut and attempted to give it a taxonomic classification. However, it's exact class still remains somewhat uncertain but is believed to be an ancient durum wheat variety. As 3,000 year-old wheat from the Egyptian tombs can't sprout, the scientists who have attempted to classify this seed generally believe Kamut was an obscure grain kept alive by peasant farmers in Egypt or Asia Minor. Adding to the mystery shrouding this grain, in the last 50 years, Kamut has vanished from it's traditional lands as modern varieties of wheat replaced it. The person who sold those 36 kernels to the airman, I can only guess to make a quick buck, actually did the world a really big favor in bringing this ancient grain back from obscurity and certain extinction. Dr. Quinn patented the seed, then coined and trade marked the name "Kamut" which is believed to be an ancient Egyptian word for wheat. Kamut may have disappeared from it's native lands in the Old World, but it is alive and doing well in the small corners of Montana and Alberta.
Kamut is a high protein grain, generally containing 30% more protein than wheat. It's amino acid ratio is about the same as wheat so if you should happen to be eating nothing but Kamut, you may wish to add some peanut butter, legumes or some other food high in lysine to give you a little better amino acid blend. As this grain hasn't been altered by modern plant breeders, it retains it's ancient nutrition, flavor and goodness. Due to it's slightly higher fatty acid content, Kamut can be considered a high energy grain, and compared to wheat, Kamut also contains elevated levels of vitamin E, Thiamin, Riboflavin, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, pantothentic acid, copper and complex carbohydrates. All around, Kamut seems to be a very healthy grain. Because of it's larger seed size in comparison to wheat, there's less fiber in Kamut than wheat. So, depending on your needs, if you require a high fiber diet, perhaps Spelt would be a better alternative which has a higher fiber content than even wheat.
The fact that many people who are allergic to wheat and can tolerate Kamut is probably the biggest reason Kamut has made real inroads into the health food markets. Several studies have been conducted with Kamut on people with wheat allergies. People with wheat allergies must be careful when trying Kamut. Laboratory tests show that 30% of the subjects with wheat allergies also displayed allergies to Kamut. In some cases their reactions to Kamut were even worse than for wheat. However, on the flip side of the coin, many people who couldn't eat wheat had no problem with Kamut. Giving additional hope to wheat sensitive people, bakeries have noted that their Kamut products have been safe to eat for almost every wheat sensitive person who has purchased their products. The bottom line - if you are wheat sensitive, under the advice of your doctor, you may wish to carefully try Kamut with the hope that you can eat bread again. If you don't have wheat allergies, you can feel confident Kamut will be a new experience because of it's great flavor. And because of it's higher nutrition, you will probably feel better as well.
As mentioned before, you can use Kamut in your different recipes calling for wheat. Be aware, however, that Kamut is closer to durum wheat than the hard wheat varieties and doesn't contain as much gluten. Because of this, you may wish to add wheat gluten or alter your expectations toward a little heavier loaf of bread. Kamut goes great in cakes and is ideally suited for your home-made pastas. We think you'll appreciate the fine flavor of Kamut and after having once tried it, will look forward to baking with this new yet ancient grain as much as your family will enjoy eating it.