Far Out Farro
By Russ Israel
Yes, Farro does have to do with the Egyptian rulers known as Pharaohs; the ancient strain of wheat was one of the first crops domesticated in Egypt. It has only become popular in recent years because it is one of the hardest grains to hull. The Italians initiated farro’s comeback by using it as a healthy substitute for pasta. In fact, farro flour can be used to make a more nutritious pasta compared to those made from the typical durum and semolina flours.
Like quinoa, farro is a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids. Its fiber and protein content exceeds those of brown rice and barley, yet it is still low in fat. The ancient grain also has plenty of necessary vitamins and minerals, most notably iron, magnesium, niacin and zinc. One of farro’s most unique characteristics is its cancer-fighting lignans, which give the grain antioxidant properties and may help control blood sugar. The grain is also high in complex carbohydrates, which further stabilize blood sugar when eating.
Because farro is a strain of wheat, it does contain gluten. Those with celiac disease should not eat farro, however those with just a gluten intolerance can usually eat farro. Most farro is sold semi-pearled (with some of its bran removed) because completely whole-grain farro has to be soaked in water overnight and takes longer to cook. Luckily, pearled farro doesn’t lose as many nutrients as most other grains do when they are pearled. Lastly, when shopping for farro, know that it is commonly referred to as emmer and that its popularity is still growing. Some major supermarkets now sell it, but you may have to travel to more specialty food stores to find it.
Farro can be used in a number of different ways in the kitchen. Check out CFYL’s Roasted Radish and Farro Salad to see how the ancient grain’s chewy texture goes with vegetables. Another popular use of farro is in soups and stews. The Black-Eyed Pea, Chard & Farro Soup provides a variety of flavors and has lots of protein to fill you up!