Khorasan wheat, sold under the KAMUT® brand name, was not native to Egypt where it was first obtained by an American airman in 1949. The airman was told it came from a tomb in Egypt, but it is more likely that the grain was purchased from a street vendor in Cairo. The ancient grain of the Pharaohs found in the tombs was einkorn. (See our section titled Origin and Taxonomy)
It is not known when khorasan wheat was introduced into Egypt, where it is now called Balady durum, meaning “native durum”. Speculation about its origin includes introduction by invading armies of the ancient Greeks or Romans or possibly later by the Byzantine Empire. Local legends are told by farmers in Turkey, where the wheat can still be found growing in small plots. The legends say that Khorasan which is also called Camel’s Tooth or the Prophet’s Wheat was the grain Noah brought with him on the ark.
Below is a short history of KAMUT® brand khorasan wheat.
1949 – Khorasan Wheat Sent to America
Earl Dedman, a U.S. airman stationed in Portugal, receives 32 giant wheat kernels from a fellow airman who obtained them during a recent trip to Egypt. The wheat kernels are sent to Earl’s father in Fort Benton, Montana, USA.
1950 - 1964 – Early Production as a Novelty
The giant wheat is grown by the Dedman family and called “King Tut’s Wheat” due to a story that the wheat came from a tomb in Egypt. However, no commercial interest is found. The wheat is later grown in small plots as a novelty. In 1964 a local farmer, Clinton Stranahan, grew the wheat to display and give samples at the local county fair. (See the 1964 newspaper article published in the Great Falls Tribune in Montana.)
1965 – 1976 – The novelty wears off and the wheat disappears due to lack of interest.
1977 – 1985 – The Rediscovery
In 1977, Bob Quinn, a graduate student at the University of California at Davis, recalls seeing the giant wheat at the Fort Benton fair while reading on the back of a Corn Nuts® package that Corn Nuts are made from giant corn. The Corn Nuts Company is contacted about using the giant wheat for a snack. The company expresses interest and one small jar of the grain is located in Fort Benton by Mack Quinn, Bob’s father. A selection of humped kernels is made by Mack and the handful of grain is increased to about 90 lbs / 41 kg in his garden in Montana and by a seed company in California. Within two years, the Corn Nuts Company loses interest and the wheat is once again set aside.
1986 – Introduction to the Health Food Market
In March of 1986 the giant wheat is first shown at the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim, California. Due to consumer interest additional acres are seeded
• 1986 - 1.5 acres / 0.6 hectares seeded using the 90 lbs / 41 kg
• 1987 - 20 acres / 8.1 hectares seeded
• 1988 - 80 acres / 32.3 hectares seeded
1988 – The giant wheat is introduced to the health food market in pasta made by Royal Angelus Macaroni Company using the KAMUT® brand name.
1989 – The first bread made with KAMUT® khorasan wheat is produced by Oasis Breads.
1990 – The “KAMUT®” trademark is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
1991 – First Cold Cereal in U.S., Introduction to Europe, and Scientific Study
The first cereal made with KAMUT® Khorasan wheat is produced. The first KAMUT® khorasan wheat flour and grain is shipped to Europe. Scientific studies performed demonstrate that KAMUT® khorasan wheat can be suitable for many with wheat sensitivities.
1992 – 1999 – Growth and Agronomic Experimentation
Over 80 products are produced by nearly 50 manufacturers. Seeding trials are done throughout Europe, in Russia, Egypt, Argentina, and Australia. The best production areas for desired nutrition and quality are determined to be located in a small region of North America, near the common borders of Montana, North Dakota, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. (Click here to view a map of the growing region)
2000 – 2009 – Continued Growth, New Markets, and Investigation
• 2001 - approximately 5,000 acres / 2,035 hectares are seeded in Montana, Alberta and Saskatchewan for markets in North America and Europe.
• 2008 - over 45,000 acres / 18,000 hectares are seeded in North America.
This phenomenal growth has resulted in thousands of products produced worldwide including breads, pasta, cereals, snacks, pastries, crackers, beer, grain coffee, green foods, and a delicious wheat drink. New market expansions include Australia and Asia however, Italy has led this growth with almost half of all production in each year sold there. Kamut International continues to sponsor nutritional research to understand the unique and special characteristics of this ancient wheat.