NEW YORK – Thousands of years ago, around the Mediterranean basin, but especially in Greece, a durable and resistant grain was cultivated for its unique nutritional qualities and the unique ability to withstand the elements, weather, and diseases. It had the ability to store unspoiled for longer periods of time thus making it available for processing year-round. It is a well-known fact that ancient Greeks didn’t consume today’s common wheat in any form. Instead, Zea wheat was the main staple in every level of this ancient society. Zea products were consumed all over ancient Greece and via sea trade to its settlements to no exception. Zea grain looks similar to common wheat grain, but its nutritional benefit is naturally higher in vitamins, minerals, and dietery fiber thus making Zea products easily digestible and nourishing.
Ζέα, pronounced as /zea/, ancient single- and double-grain hulled wheat named by the ancient Greeks ζείδωρος (/ziðoros/) meaning life-giving, has been cultivated in small villages across the countryside but has not been available to the global marketplace, until now. Zea was one of the most precious crops cultivated during the golden age of the Hellenic and Hellenistic world and is featured in art depicting rituals and festivals. These non-GMO grains have been consumed since antiquity and have been documented in ancient texts by Pedanius Dioscorides (40-90 AD), a Greek physician, pharmacologist, and botanist:
- “Ζέα δισσή • ? μ?ν γ?ρ ?πλ? ? δ? δίκοκκος καλε?ται, ?ν δυσ?ν ?λύτροις ?χουσα συνεζευγμένον τ? σπέρμα.”
- “There are two kinds of Zea • one single and the other dicoccous, having the seed joined in two husks,” Pedanius Dioscorides, de materia medica (book 2)
Demetra Organics was born out of a desire to promote a healthy, modern lifestyle supported by this unique, highly nutritional staple of Greek agriculture, the ancient Zea wheat. This traditional grain improved the health and well-being of the Greeks for thousands of years. They traded it at local markets, treasured it as a cultural secret and revered it as an ancient symbol of a bountiful harvest.
Founded in 2016, Demetra Organics is gathering a growing community of local farmers in the fertile Delphi region of Greece to resurrect the production of these nourishing grains for today’s consumer market. By supporting small farmers, Demetra Organics is dedicated to stimulating the local economy and providing a sustainable way of life for those who have been hit the hardest by the Greek economic crisis. Homemade bread and grain products are the foundation of Greek culture through the centuries. Fittingly, Demetra Organics is named after Demeter (Δήμητρα), the ancient Greek goddess of the harvest.
Demetra Organics offer the U.S. market wholesale orders of their exclusive Zea products, namely, Wild-Zea (single-grain) flour, the most ancient and rare of grains, and an alternative to modern wheat flour, Hard-Zea (double-grain) flour, perfect for bread making, and Soft-Zea (double-grain) similar to pastry flour. Each unique Zea product is rich in dietary fiber, B-vitamins and minerals- attributed to Greece’s remarkably fertile environment, a harmonic union of everlasting sun and flowing water in the bountiful soil.
Watch the production story of our Zea here.
Tom Galis, Experience Curator for 2017 (Michelin recommended) Greek Tribeca stated, "One of my biggest drives in my 26 years in the hospitality business is providing the best and most unique products to my guests and customers. Over the past four years, my focus has turned to finding exquisite Greek products that showcase the excellence of Greek gastronomy. Upon the conception of my newest venture Greca, a modern Greek bakery for the discerning customers of Tribeca, Zea flour couldn't have been a more perfect partner and purveyor supporting my vision. Their devotion and expertise have been the ideal inspiration to create outstanding products."
Peter Kofitsas, International Health Speaker, Author, and Sustainability Consultant said, "More people than ever are desperately seeking better health. Many are also suffering through economic hardships. I am encouraged and inspired to have found a thoughtful company like Demetra Organics and their special products, including Zea, that nourish the body, replenish the earth and support small farmers. I believe the bread and grain products made using Zea can be considered some of the healthiest foods on the planet, while also being sustainable. The fact that bread made with Zea flour is also delicious is a welcomed bonus. I am proud to make Peter’s Bread using these special ingredients."
A version of this article originally appeared in The National Herald on October 19, 2017.