[Sca-cooks] "Bojal" wheat

Terry Decker t.d.decker at att.net
Sat Jan 2 21:35:07 PST 2010

>>> Given the location and the time frame, I might suggest durum, which is a
>>> very hard wheat.
>>> Bear
>>>> Suey wrote:
>>>>> According to the Wikipedia article "Historia de la gastronomia de
>>>>> Espana," from the 7th C BC Carthaginians cultivated common wheat, 
>>>>> barley,
>>>>> germinated spelt and "bojal" wheat. "Boj" means boxwood in English but 
>>>>> this
>>>>> word "bojal" does not seem to appear anywhere in google except in this
>>>>> article. The word is not found in the Royal Academy of Spain's 
>>>>> dictionary.
>>>>> Any ideas as to what the English equivalent could be? My hunch is that 
>>>>> it
>>>>> could be red wheat but we have hard and soft, winter and spring??? 
>>>>> Suey
>> Durum wheat did not come to Spain until the Berber brought it but the 
>> 10th C
>> AD. "Bojal" wheat is dated from the 7th C BC. and seems to have been 
>> brought
>> by the Carthaginians.
> Is it possible that this is just wrong? We're talking about a
> Wikipedia article; what's their reference for this?
> - Jaume

It would be more correct to say the Wikipedia article is limited, in fact 
most general discussions of wheat have limitations.  For example, I would 
question the use of the term "common wheat."  Modernly, common wheat is 
Triticum aestivum, but in the 7th Century BCE, it would have been emmer, 
Triticum dicoccum.  I, too, would like to know the references.

The Berbers did make extensive use of durum and it is fair to say that they 
brought the extensive cultivation of durum to some areas of Europe.  It is 
also possible (and probable) that durum was being grown is some places long 
before the Berbers arrived.  There is archeological evidence that durum was 
being grown in North Africa as early as the 1st Century BCE and was very 
likely around before that.  Whether or not we can credit the Carthaginians 
is open to question, but durum would definitely have been encountered by the 
Romans who controlled the North African granary after burying the 
Carthaginians in the Punic Wars, the Vandals, who siezed the North African 
granary and made Carthage their capitol, and the Byzantines, who put the 
Vandals out of business in the 5th Century and retained control of the North 
African grain trade until they were overrun by the Berbers in 697 CE. 
Initial cultivation of durum in Spain could have occurred centuries before 
the Berbers arrived.

As a small aside, there are a number of sources which credit the Romans with 
introducing wheat into Britian.  However, the Greek explorer Pytheas, 
reported large quantities of wheat being grown in Britian around 330 BCE, 
almost three hundred years before Julius Caesar started the incorporation of 
Britian into the Roman Empire.  Even good sources can be wrong.

My reasoning for suggesting Triticum turgidum durum as "bojal" wheat is that 
durum is believed to be of African origin, that it was grown in the region 
around Carthage, and that it is a very hard wheat, in fact the grains are 
physically harder than those most other varieties of wheat.  Antonia's 
casual linguistic research appears to support my opinion.  I don't know 
whether I am right or wrong in my opinion, but it is enough for me to 
question what is common knowledge of the foodstuffs of the Islamic 

The problem with red wheat is most of those strains are T. aestivum, which 
would not likely have been available to the Carthaginians.  Einkorn, emmer 
and spelt are the most common wheats of the period (~10,000 BCE - ~700 CE, 
if you agree with generally accepted sources).  Einkorn was largely 
displaced by emmer, which in turn was displaced by T. compactum and T 
aestivum, but that displacement is considerably later than 7th Century BCE.

Two other possibilities come to mind, T. turgidum conicum and T. polonicum, 
but the limited information I have on those two species doesn't seem to 
match the limited specifics for "bojal" wheat.


More information about the Sca-cooks mailing list