Washington, October 25 : The world's oldest cooked cereal, enjoyed by European diners about 8,000 years ago, was prepared instantly just by soaking it in hot water.
The researchers behind this finding have revealed that the ancient cereal, dating from between 5920 to 5730 B.C., consisted of parboiled bulgur wheat that Early Neolithic Bulgarians could refresh in minutes with hot water.
"People boiled the grain, dried it, removed the bran and ground it into coarse particles," Discovery News quoted lead author Soultana-Maria Valamoti, an assistant professor of archaeology at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, as saying.
"In this form, the cereal grain can be stored throughout the year and consumed easily, even without boiling, by merely soaking in hot water," she added.
For their research, her team studied the Bulgarian grain, excavated at a site called Kapitan Dimitrievo, as well as 4,000-year-old grains of barley and wheat from northern Greece.
The researchers said that they could observe precise details about the individual cereal grains, including their composition, with the help of a microscope.
Writing about their findigns in the journal Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, the researchers said that starch within the Bulgarian grains was swollen, twisted and, at times, fused together.
They said that such starch modifications were more extreme toward the outer layers of the bulgur, consistent with grains that had been penetrated by boiling water.
According to them, the grains had also been charred, not in a way indicative of intentional toasting, but rather by a fire that appeared to have burnt down the houses where the grain was stored.
When the researchers cooked and processed modern wheat and hulled barley, they noticed that their fine details and internal structure matched what was seen in the ancient Bulgarian grains.
"I think bulgur could have well been a staple ingredient of Mediterranean cultures in the past. It is very nutritious and easy to make a meal out of it throughout the year, once it is prepared," Valamoti said.
She believes that such simple preparations passed down through the generations, leading to dishes that are still enjoyed in the southeastern Europe and other parts of the world.
"Bulgur and trachanas (preparations often consisting of ground grain mixed with milk or yogurt) were staple foods of Greek people until very recently," she said, adding that Arabic cooks "make the wonderful tabouleh salad with bulgur," and that other sophisticated recipes using the grain later emerged.
Valamoti is presently writing a book about early cooking methods and recipes.