Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fabulous Farro

Although I'd heard of farro, also known as Italian wheat, I'd never tried it until last year when I found this bag from Earthly Choice at Costco. Roger and I immediately fell in love with farro's delicious taste, chewy texture and incredible versatility. Farro goes well with sweet or savory ingredients and can be eaten hot for breakfast, cold in salads, as a substitute for pasta, in risotto, pilaf, soups and much, much more.  

What is Farro?

Farro is an unhybridized grain that has been used in many Mediterranean and Mid East cultures for thousands of years, dating back to the Egyptians, Assyrians and Etruscans who brought it to Italy where farro became a staple of the Italian diet, including the mighty Roman army.

Farro is available whole (intact grain), cracked (whole grain cracked into smaller pieces), pearled (perlato), or semi-pearled (semi-perlato). Nutritionists prefer the whole or cracked form, where the grain, including the bran, is still intact, or the semi-pearled because it retains more of the bran, where the nutrients and fiber are found. The Earthly Choice farro is pearled, which shortens the cooking time to around 15 minutes+/-, making it very easy to prepare.

Because it's apparently not easy to grow and low yielding, farro fell out of favor for a long time. However, it's enjoying a new popularity today for its nutritional benefits, versatility and great taste. Farro is a high fiber, high protein, slow release carbohydrate, rich in other nutrients. A half cup of raw farro is about 170 calories. While I'm glad that it's a healthy food, we don't buy farro for that reason. For us, it's all about how good it tastes.

Where to Buy Farro

I was very sad when Costco stopped carrying farro because I had a tough time finding it locally - until last week. To my great joy, farro (pearled) can be found in the bulk department at the Hendersonville Community Co-op for about $3.59 a pound. Similar stores are a good prospect for finding it where you live. When you consider how many things you can do with a pound of farro, it's a bargain.

Recently I made a farro salad by cooking it in chicken stock, then while it was still warm, I added dried cranberries. When the berries were plumped and the farro had cooled, I added finely chopped parsley, diced green onions, jicama, celery and fresh blueberries. I tossed the salad with a home-made orange vinaigrette and put it in the refrigerator to chill and develop the flavors. When I served the salad, I topped it with diced fresh peaches and chopped pecans. Roger had been out taking down trees, so he was more than ready for lunch. It didn't take a lot of this salad to make him feel full and energized again, and he kept saying how delicious it was.

It's hard to go wrong with farro, so try it for yourself and see how many ways you can use it. If you need inspiration, there are loads of recipes on line.

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