The current popularity of wheat berries may represent back-to-basics eating in its most radical form: At some point in mankind’s 11,000-year love affair with wheat, we seemingly became so infatuated with the ways we could process it—pulverizing it into flour for lofty breads, twisting it into pasta, fermenting it into alcohol—that we must have forgotten that this grass’s nutritious kernel could be eaten whole, thereby ingesting all three of the grain’s vital components: bran, germ and endosperm.
The wheat berry turns back the clock. It’s the whole grain, and nothing but the grain, with only the hull removed. Wheat berries look something like brown rice. Industrious bakers grind wheat berries into homemade whole-wheat flour. Nutritionistas and raw foodists set them in water to grow their own crunchy sprouts. Enlightened chefs simply boil them like rice to enhance dishes with their nutty flavor and chewy bite. Wheat berries are particularly good in pilafs, salads and soups. For a tasty side, add cooked wheat berries to mushrooms sautéed with a little onion.
Look for wheat berries in natural food stores or well-stocked groceries. A cup of cooked wheat berries has about 300 calories and is packed with fiber, protein and iron. Stored in an air-tight container in a cool, dark place, they’ll last for a long time—foodie chat rooms are abuzz with reports contending that wheat berries excavated from 5,000-year-old Egyptian tombs were still vital enough to sprout.
—By Jo Marshall, a food writer in Deephaven, Minn.