Varieties of Georgian Wheat

Varieties of Georgian Wheat

Wheat is considered a symbol of abundance and life in many cultures around the world, and this crop can be found everywhere in Georgia. For example, during a wedding, it is not uncommon for the bride and groom to have wheat scattered on their heads to convey upon them good luck, many children, and economic prosperity. In some regions, on the morning after New Year’s Day (which is called “perkhva” by Gurians and “santsale kuchkha” by Megrelians), wheat would be spread around the yard, strewn in front of the cows and chickens, while a prayer was said. In Georgia, bread and wheat have had ritual importance since time immemorial, and they retain an extremely significant place in the nation’s culture to this day. Among Georgians, there is no supra (feast) without bread, while dishes called “korkoti,” “tsandili,” and “kolio” prepared for supras in remembrance of the deceased, are made from wheat. The growing of wheat and baking of bread are considered virtuous endeavors in Georgia to this day.

The Main Product from Wheat

In Georgia, wheat and bread have a long and storied history. Bread here is traditionally baked in a tone oven, although it has more often been baked on a ketsi pan in western Georgia, kept in a bread chest made of mulberry wood. The first piece of bread made was traditionally always kept until the end of the day or for a guest, expressing dedication to the family’s guardian angel and serving as a symbol of abundance.

In Georgian, there are many words that are connected to puri (which means “bread”). There are feasts called “puroba,” while a generous, giving person is called “puradi” and a stingy person is called “puradzviri,” a shortage of bread is called “purtkbiloba,” and there is a Georgian hospitality ritual is called “pur-marili.” 

In recent years, interest in Georgian varieties of wheat has grown, and spelt, Persian wheat, macha wheat, and black durum have started to be grown in home gardens as well as around monasteries and churches. As such, flour made from Georgian wheat is widely available, especially in the capital, and bread is ordinarily baked with wheat flour.

Macha wheat is considered one of the oldest wheats on Earth and can only be maintained in Georgia. The rubiginosum variant of Persian wheat, which is also endemic to Georgia, has already become popular throughout Georgia and beyond.

Georgians proudly claim that, in addition to being the homeland of wine, Georgia is also the homeland of wheat.

Wheat in Georgian Culture

In the 1920s, archaeological excavations carried out in the lowlands of Kolkheti led to the discovery of human habitations and graves, in which carbonized wheat seeds were found, dating back to the 5th to 6th millennium BCE.

According to archaeological and anthropological sources, it has also been established that the cultivation of wheat started 5,000 years ago in Georgia. Moreover, work tools related to the growing and processing of wheat have been found here.

Of the 27 species under the botanical genus of wheat, 14 are now found within Georgia, five of which are endemic to Georgia. This means that there are Georgian genes in more than 70% of the wheat species grown around the world.

Georgian varieties are distinguishable for their resistance to pests and fungi and their high biochemical content, including Timopheev’s wheat, spelt, rubiginosum, Colchic wheat, black durum, macha, and Persian wheat. 

The Georgian National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation has granted Georgian wheat the status of an “Intangible Cultural Monument.” Moreover, the Georgian government categorized Georgian wheat culture as being of national importance by decree in 2019.

The International Acclaim of Georgian Wheat

Georgian wheat is also listed by UNESCO, and work is ongoing with Georgian scientists to protect endemic Georgian species of wheat. 

Moreover, a study was published in 2016 in Trends in Plant Science, where German scientists named the Georgian species of spelt as one of the cereal grains which will be most consumed in the near future, complimenting its flavor and characteristics, as well as its strong resistance to parasites.

Georgian spelt is sown in autumn and ripens in spring. It seldom crosses with other species, growing thick ears full of large seeds, and can be well ground. The bread and pastries made from it carry a special taste and smell. Today, Georgian spelt is used in many countries to make new species immune to disease, and is protected as a valuable material of global significance for selective breeding.

Finally, Persian wheat is the oldest type of wheat to be bred in Georgia, and is mentioned in many ancient written sources. In Fereydan, the Georgian name for the species, “dika”, is still maintained. It is one of the most valuable types of Georgian wheat, with unique agricultural properties. It is easily threshed, resistant to collapsing and falling, can be harvested early, and has a strong resistance to fungal diseases. Along with its other useful properties, Persian wheat grains also have a high protein and lysine content.

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