ORIGINS

CEREALS

Among the Greeks and Romans the intake of cereals was well spread. The first grain to be used was the spelt minor, or einkorn (Triticum monococcum), emmer (Triticum turgidum dicoccum L.) and spelt (Triticum aestivum spelta L.). These ancient grain, commonly called dressed, produced grain whose pericarp was protected by tight-fitting glumes. For this reason, they were impossible to thresh at harvest time and they were eaten as they were, or processed into flour, more or less imperfect, from which were obtained biscuits and the famous pulse, the raw corn porridge (polenta) for a long time the Romans base food. The most common species of naked grain were, however, the Siligo, Triticum aestivum (soft grain) and Triticum durum (hard wheat). The ancient Romans soon learned the cultivation characteristics of the two Triticum: while the hard sought dry weather and sun, the soft preferred the humid weather of the central and northern Italy spreading rapidly in the Padan Plain territories.

For many centuries the southern regions of Italy were regarded as the granary of the Mediterranean. Plinio, in his greatest work, the 'Naturalis Historia', does not forget to mention Calabria as a very fertile land for grains. The recipes of Apicius show how the wheat flour and durum wheat were kept separate and used in different presentations that exploited their best qualities. The cereals were used mainly for bread. The ancient Romans attributed to bread divine origin for the derivation of the word panis by Pan, the sylvan god who first had baked the beans donated by Ceres to man; this explained why the image of the god Pan was reproduced on all forms of bread. Bread was bought at the bakery (Pistor, that is the one who pounded the corn in a mortar) because only the aristocratic families baked bread at home. White bread (siligineus) was consumed by the wealthy families, black bread (ater or plebeius), based on scrap flours, by the poorest.