Thursday, January 30, 2014


I learned something new on a cooking show tonight.  These fellows down south were harvesting a grain that looked like wild wheat.  They cut the plants off at the top of the ground green with hand held sickles we had on the farm when I was a child.  Then they set it on fire and knocked the once green grain into a big tarp for old fashioned hand threashing with sticks and clubs.
"There is some confusion as to what farro is. Einkorn (Triticum monococcum), emmer (Triticum dicoccum), and spelt (Triticum spelta) are called farro in Italy, sometimes (but not always) distinguished as farro medio, farro grande, and farro piccolo, respectively.[2] Emmer grown in the Garfagnana region of Tuscany is known as farro, and can receive an IGP designation (Indicazione Geografica Protetta), which by law guarantees its geographic origin.[2] Emmer is by far the most common variety grown in Italy, in certain mountain regions of Tuscany andAbruzzo. It is also considered to be of a higher quality for cooking than the other two grains and is sometimes called "true" farro.[3]
Regional differences in what is grown locally and eaten as farro, as well as similarities between the three grains, may explain the confusion. Barley and farro may be used interchangeably because of their similar characteristics. Spelt is much more commonly grown in Germany and Switzerland and is eaten and used in much the same way, and might therefore be considered faro, as is épeautre (Triticum spelta), in France (where, like for faro in Italy, there is "petit", "moyen" and "grand" épeautre. Common wheat (Triticum aestivum) may also be prepared and eaten much like farro, in which form it is often referred to as wheatberries.
Farro is often confused with spelt, though it is an entirely different species.[4]"
I am familiar with einkorn, emmer and spelt but not farro.  "The three species are sometimes known as farro piccolo, farro medio, and farro grande, which are einkorn, emmer, and spelt, respectively.[2] While these names reflect the general size difference between these three grains, there are landraces of each that are smaller or larger than the typical size and cross into the size range of the others."
One of them made a "southern succotash" with fresh garden vegetables.  It looked healthy but it also looked delicious.
I will bet one reader knows what farro is but I for one had never heard of it.


  1. I will bet there is more than one reader, although they may not have cooked all three as I do.

    The common French names are usually "amidonnier" (for emmer, meaning starch-producer,) "épeautre" (for spelt) and "petit épeautre" or "engrain" (for einkorn). The latter is traditional in some regions like Provence, it cooks like peal barley, as you said, and is very tender. Spelt is mostly used for specialty bread. I don't know that emmer is used much in France, there are white and black varieties, I think we got the word for flour ("farine") from it, as "farina" used to refer to the starch-rich flour of emmer. Spain still grows it as a kind of hay for livestock, and of course the Italians for farro. These ancient varieties are tough the thresh, that's the main reason they were abandoned to durum wheat and barley. Soft wheat came from a later cross-pollination.

    I thank the organic farmers for making these varieties available, they revived many of these forgotten or traditional varieties, and usually had a concern for good healthy and diverse eating using everything the Earth could provide.

    Forget about cooking spelt or wheat though, it's just too tough even boiled for hours, I tried. Maybe soft wheat when it's just been harvested. A better way to cook them is to crack the grain in a coffee grinder, soak the mix of flour and cracked grain in a bit of water, and mix it with sliced onions, eggs, parsley and a tiny amount of grated cheese to pan-fry savory pancakes in a bit of olive oil. Funny story about these wheat "galettes" is that I usually brought a few of them to uni for lunch (I used to live 25 miles from the city) and other students kept asking me if I was a vegetarian, which I was not, I just thought they were delicious and made a great meal. In the end, a bit tired about the questions, I decided to try the vegetarian diet and I did for a whole year. Talk about peer pressure! ;) That's how I learned how to cook, as the rest of my family was not vegetarian and I had to cater for myself.

    Another great way to use wheat is bulgur, but in the U.S., it seems it means only wheat cracked into long slivers, which is not very digestible or tender. In Europe and the Mediterranean Basin, bulgur is germinated first, which starts the natural enzymes such as amylase and converts some of the starch into sugar, then quickly dried at medium temperatures, and then cracked into small cubes that are sorted into 2 or 3 different fine, medium and large sizes and are all excellent and quick to cook. Plain bulgur with just a dollop of butter is nutty and delicious.

  2. You meant Pearl barley, not peal, correct?

    Great response Chimel, this is where your background and diversity comes in handy, though you confuse the heck out of NAT readers!

    That's why I emailed you the first time, who is this guy?


  3. It's pearl barley, of course. Stupid spell-checker does not catch expressions, just words.
    I can't imagine any soup better than one with pearl barley in this cold weather, the "pearling" exposes some of the starch, so it thickens any soup with a light creamy touch, a bit like gelatin, without the need to cook some bones in the soup...

  4. Pearl barley soup sounds good today. Instead, we are having chopped sirloin which was on sale and we have the things we need to go with it.

    I am a big user of the onion market!