Purple wheat has only recently been introduced into Australia (around 2002) and the first organic wheat crop was grown for Kialla Pure Foods in 2013. This single origin grain was grown in the rich black alluvial soil of the Darling Downs near Cecil Plains by Geoff who grows a variety of crops for Kialla.
The brownish purple colour of the wheat grain is in the pericarp, or outside layer of the bran, thus it is best used as a wholegrain flour for optimum taste and health benefits.
The wholegrain flour has a robust texture and subtle notes of nuttiness and sweetness. It can be used as a substitute for other wholegrain flours.
Unlike red or white wheats, purple wheat has natural anthocyanin compounds giving it the dark colouration. Purple wheat originated in Ethiopia and is known as Abyssinian wheat (Triticum aethiopicum). At some time over the millennia it hybridised with the ancient emmer wheat (Triticum dicoccum) that is the ancestor of our modern bread wheat (Triticum aestivum). Varieties of purple wheat are selectively bred to cultivate this genetic inheritance.
The grain’s purplish brown colour comes from the high quotient of anthocyanins, plant flavonoid pigments, commonly referred to as bioflavonoids, which are responsible for the purple tone in grapes, berries and other dark coloured fruits.
Studies indicate that the antioxidant capacities of anthocyanin pigments may provide protection from DNA damage and oestrogen dependant cancers, as well as boosting production of immune regulating cytokines, and strengthening blood capillaries and cell membranes.
In addition to anthocyanins, purple wheat grain also contains the lignan SDG (secoisolariciresinol diglucoside), an antioxidant phytoestrogen also present in linseed, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Some of the grain’s purplish colour is achieved by the presence of melatonin, which controls our circadian rhythms and is also an antioxidant with particular role in the protection of nuclear and mitochondrial DNA.
Researchers consider that the presence of SDG and melatonin, in addition to anthocyanins, may be a major reason why the various health benefits listed above are associated with eating coloured cereal grains.
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