Sacramental varieties

The CIMMYT genebank holds about 13,000 wheat lines (from a couple hundred populations) from Mexico that they call “sacramental wheats.” This collection was put together by the late Bent Skovmand, who established the CIMMYT genebank back in the 1970s. Sometimes collected in monasteries and cemeteries, and generally restricted to the fringes of cultivated zones, these mainly spring bread wheats are the remnants of the varieties introduced by the Spanish into the New World. You can see the collecting sites in the map above right. They were brought across the Atlantic both to provide familiar food, but also to make the sacramental bread used for Holy Communion. An excellent book relating this history is “Que vivan los tamales! Food and the making of Mexican identity” by Jeffrey M. Pilcher.

Here’s my question. Are there some varieties that would have been used only for Holy Communion? I’ve heard it said that this was the case for grape varieties and sacramental wine, although I can find no evidence online for that, or indeed for purely sacramental bread wheat varieties. So I’m turning to the wisdom of the crowd. That means you. Are you aware of any wheat or grape varieties that are (or were) used solely (or mainly, let’s give ourselves some room for maneuver here) to produce sacramental bread or wine for the Eucharist? Or do you know someone who might know? Either way, leave us a comment, please.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *