Siyez Wheat Bulgur

Cereals and flours - Turkey

Many farms in the forested northern Turkish province of Kastamonu, not far from the Black Sea, continue to cultivate the oldest type of wheat still in existence, Triticum monococcum, known as Siyez in Turkey. The grain differs from conventional varieties due to its low level of gluten and high protein content (about 20%). Despite its extraordinary characteristics, the cultivation of Triticum monococcum, also known as Einkorn wheat, has been declining constantly. This is due to the crop not being seen as profitable: the ear produces only one enclosed grain, it has a long vegetative cycle and there is often a poor harvest. However, it flourishes in poor soil where modern hybrids would struggle, able to survive harsh climates with at least three months of snow cover. This is why in Kastamonu over 900 farmers continue to grow it, using it mostly to make a staple food called bulgur. The production process for bulgur is relatively simple. The husked grains are covered with boiling water for about 20 minutes, then immediately cooled with cold water and spread out in the sun to dry. The wheat is then brought to a mill where it is ground repeatedly until the grains are cleaned and crushed. “They must be split in two like the wings of a mosquito,” says Salim Kabaca, a Siyez Bulgur Presidium producer who lives and works in Ihsangazi, a village around 40 kilometers from the town of Kastamonu. After cleaning and crushing, the wheat is spread out on large cloths and left in the sun to dry for one or two days, depending on the weather, and turned frequently. Bulgur is used in everyday cooking, and is usually served as a pilaf, cooked in broth in a covered pan along with some minced onion sautéed in butter or oil.