Our farmer ancestors have grown farro since 7700BC in the fertile crescent. The wild farro grain (also called emmer wheat) is an ancestor to our modern day wheat, now widely devoured in the form of white bread and pasta. 9700 years later, we are just beginning to learn how much our health is affected by the foods we eat. The food we eat goes into our mouths & then disappears into our digestive systems to undergo various complex biological processes before actually becoming part of our bodies.
The carbohydrate in foods such as fruits, grains and beans starts to break down in your mouth. When you eat an apple for example, an enzyme called amylase is stimulated by the presense of carbohydrate in your mouth, starting to break the carbohydrate chains into smaller sugars or saccharides. The process continues in your stomach, and by the time those apple sugars reach your intestines, they have been broken down into the most simple sugar – glucose. The glucose then gets absorbed into the intestine and delivered to your blood. It travels around in the blood superhighway until it floats close to a cell that is “hungry” – the cell has a little insulin flag on it that is like an open mouth, eating up glucose. Once in your cell, the glucose is converted into energy for your muscles and brain. Amazing! Every nutrient we eat ends up somewhere in our bodies doing something very important like stimulating the electrical impulses that make our hearts beat (potassium), and helping our intestines to actually absorb other nutrients from our food (Vitamin D).
Anybody still reading? The point is, eating food is the single most important way that you affect your own health every day. What does this have to do with the ancient farro grain? This grain represents the way our ancestors used to eat: whole, unprocessed foods with all their nutrients still intact. These foods have unique combinations of nutrients that work together to promote health. Unlike processed white wheat, farro and other whole grains still have their outer bran & germ layers intact. These layers are full of nutrients such as folate, vitamin E, potassium and fiber. Also, they are darn tasty!
The farro grain is still grown mainly in Europe, but now we have our own LOCAL source of emmer farro (and other wonderful whole grains). Brooke & Sam Lucy at Bluebird Grain Farms are growing these organic heirloom grains in the Methow Valley. They supply some of Seattle’s most beloved restaurants with their lovely grains and freshly milled flours (Lark, Stumbling Goat…). Look for them at a Seattle farmer’s market this spring – or check out their website for CSA and direct ordering options: www.bluebirdgrainfarms.com
Then try this recipe, or one of the recipes on the Bluebird Grain Farms website – with emmer farro. It has a nutty flavor and wonderful al dente texture that stands up well in a grain salad and leftovers will keep at least 5 days in the fridge (but you will have eaten them by then).
Orange Hazelnut Farro Salad Wraps (Vegan) – Makes 4 Cups
*Indicates ingredients that are grown or produced locally
For the Salad:
*2 Cups cooked farro (recipe follows)
1 Organic orange
*4 Tender chard leaves
*1/3 Cup dried pluots (from Tiny’s)
*1/3 Cup roasted hazelnuts (from Holmquist Orchards)
*1/4 Cup hazelnut oil
1/4 Teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 Teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon Agave nectar (available in natural foods section of your store, near the sugars)
Place the cooked farro in a large mixing bowl. Zest the orange into the bowl – avoid the white pith, its bitter! Chop or tear the chard into small strips (about 1/2 inch) and add to the bowl. Roughly chop the pluots and hazelnuts and add to the bowl. Into a jar with a tight fitting lid, squeeze the juice from the orange and add the hazelnut oil, salt, dijon and agave nectar. Put on the lid and shake well to combine. Pour 1/3 Cup dressing into the farro salad and stir to coat all the ingredients. Save remaining dressing in the fridge to toss with salad greens. Eat the farro salad as is, or use it to make a lunch-wrap to go:
For Each Wrap:
2 Mountain Bread wraps (thin bread wraps, available at PCC natural markets) – or 1 whole grain tortilla
2 Tablespoons Tofutti “Better than cream cheese” (or cream cheese for you non-vegans)
*2 Teaspoons Peach Chipoltle pepper jelly (from Woodrings)
1/2 Cup orange hazelnut farro salad
Spread the tofutti all over one side of 1 piece of mountain bread. Place a second piece of bread over the tofutti & spread the jelly all over the second bread. Spread the farro salad over the bottom 3/4 of the bread, leaving about 1/2 inch of space at the bottom and sides of the bread. Fold the bottom 1/2 inch of bread over the filling, then fold 1/2 inch of each side over the filling. Keeping the sides tucked in, continue rolling the bread from the bottom up until completely rolled. Store seam side down in a container or wrap tightly with waxed paper or foil until lunch.
To Cook the Farro:
*1 Cup emmer farro (from Bluebird Grain Farms)
3 Cups water
1/2 Teaspoon kosher or sea salt
Place the farro, water and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 50 minutes. Drain excess water and eat hot with saucy entrees, or cool for grain salads.