Spelt seed is a type of grain similar to grains such as wheat or rye. When selecting the best spelt seed, the first thing to consider is how it is physically stored, because moisture can cause the seeds to lose their nutrients as well as slowly turning the seeds bad. Depending on how spelt seed is prepared for sale, some types might be better for some purposes, such as whole seeds for flour or sealed, fresh seeds for sprouting. If possible, the best spelt seed will not have been packed more than a few months prior to purchase and use, because time will reduce the nutrients in the seeds and the effectiveness of the short glutens they contain. Some seeds can be specially processed like wheat and rye grains, reducing some of the vitamins the seeds contain but making them easier to use in cooking and baking.
When spelt seed is harvested, it is separated from the stalk and dried so it will last longer. The dried seeds tend to be very sensitive to moisture in the environment, meaning they will soak up excess moisture in the air. Over time, enough moisture can be absorbed by incorrectly stored seeds that they either develop mold or fungus on their surface or start to decompose from the inside. When choosing spelt seeds, it is important to look at the seeds or to know for certain that they are stored in a low-moisture environment for the best product.
Like other whole grains, spelt seed can come prepared in a variety of ways. The outer husk of the seed is very difficult to remove, so many seeds are sold whole with the husks attached. Whole seeds are best used when turned into flour or when prepared slowly with long soaking or simmering times. The seeds also can be cracked or hulled so the inner portion of the seed is exposed and the spelt cooks faster, although removing the entire hull removes some of the nutrients.
One distinct type of spelt seed is used for sprouting spelt. These can be sold while very fresh and generally have not had food processes such as irradiation applied that might reduce the chance of germination. Although there is a small chance that any type of spelt seed will sprout, specifically packaged sprouting seeds will have a much higher success rate. Alternately, some seeds are sold already sprouted and will have different nutritional values and a slightly different, less nutty flavor.