The garden of the wheat ancestors
The garden of the wheat ancestors
About ten thousand years ago, hunter-gatherers who lived in our region collected seeds of wild grains and wild legumes and began to grow them as an agricultural crop. In doing so, they took the first step in a process that lasted thousands of years and is called the "agricultural revolution". The transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture changed the face of humanity for better and for worse. On one hand it caused the development of culture, language, technology, and the constitution but at the same time it also brought with it hard work, wars, epidemics, hunger and animal abuse.
The wheat is the most important plant cultivated in the western world. It contains carbohydrates and proteins, and bread – the main food in ancient times, is made from it. “With the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Genesis 19) punished God the first man after he ate from the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Bread is the wheat pastry but because of its importance to human life, it became a generic name for all food and even for sustenance and existence.
The Garden of the Wheat Progenitors in front of you, built with steps going up, shows the stages of wheat development, from wild wheat to bread wheat.
The seeds in the garden were donated by the Genetic Bank at the Ministry of Agriculture, as part of the “Wheat Land” project, which aims to save and restore the traditional wheat varieties that have disappeared from the modern agricultural. With the transition to new technologies and modern varieties, the varieties that have developed here for hundreds of years were abandoned. In these varieties there are traits that have been eroded in the modern varieties, such as immunity to pests and diseases and nutritional and other values. Neot Kedumim contributes to the preservation of the varieties of the past for future generations.
From the wild emmer wheat, “the mother of wheat” as Aharon Aharonson called it, all kinds of wheat have developed. (Aharon Aharonson was a botanist and a member of the Nily group, a Jewish espionage network which assisted the United Kingdom in its fight against the Ottoman Empire in Palestine between 1915 and 1917). He discovered the wild wheat near Rosh Pina in 1906. Until then, it was believed to have extinct from the world.
Wild emmer wheat spikelet effectively self-cultivates by propelling themselves mechanically into soils with their awns.
The emmer wheat (T. dicoccum) was the first wheat to be cultivated from the wild wheat. Following a mutation that damaged its seed distribution mechanism, and a deliberate selection of humans, it became a cultivated crop which its distribution depends on humans, and humans depend on it. Emmer is hard wheat, with 2 rows of grains covered in husks that do not fall apart during threshing. To remove the husks the grains had to be crushed in a mortar. For this reason, it disappeared from our area but is still grown in few areas of the world. In English it is called emmer and in Italian farro.
“a land of wheat” (Deuteronomy 8:8)
Wheat evolved from the emmer wheat. The difference between the two – the wheat husks break apart easily during threshing and the grains come out naked. Until the 1940s, the Israeli wheat was durum wheat, (T.durum) in Latin means hard, because it is the hardest of the wheat species. Its dough is not elastic and almost does not rise. Today, semolina and pasta are mainly made from it.
Over the years, hundreds of varieties of durum wheat have been developed in the Land of Israel, named after the places where they were developed such as Kasra, Horani, Jaljoli, Gaza and more. Due to their incompatibility with the palat of Eastern European immigrants who were used to soft wheat, these species were abandoned and some of them disappeared from the world. Neot Kedumim contributes to the preservation of the varieties that have been left for future generations.
Emmer wheat migrated with the farmers from our area to the north and reached the Caspian Sea. At the edge of the fields, she met a wild wheat plant, Aegilops tauschii.
From the successful hybridization, the spelt wheat (T. spelt) was created. It is a soft wheat that never grew in the Land of Israel.
The durum wheat also migrated north with the farmers and it also met the
Aegilops tauschii.. The hybridization between them created the bread wheat (T. aestivum). Soft wheat that needs water and cold whether and therefore was rare in the Land of Israel. In the 1940s the Volcanic Institute brought it to the Land of Israel and since then it has become the main wheat of the Land of Israel, as it is in the whole world.