Using Wheat Berries

August 30, 2012

This trendy-for-good-reason grain is packed with nutrients and can be used in a number of delicious ways.

Wheat Berry Salads
Mark Boughton Photography / Styling by Teresa Blackburn

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. 


Summer Wheatberry Salad

Nutty, chewy, earthy wheatberries (farro) make a terrific base for a summer grain salad, this one featuring three farmstand favorites.


Wheat Berry Vegetable Salad with Toasted Sesame Dressing

Wheat berries and vegetables are an unbeatable combination in this springtime salad.


Winter Minestrone Soup

Hearty kale and chewy barley add great textures to this vegetable soup.


Harvest Wheat Berry Salad

Chewy wheat berries are studded with bits of fruit and laced with a slightly sweet dressing.


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