This week’s Chow shares include a brand new item — wheat berries from Ramona Farms. We’re excited about this, and hope you enjoy some new adventures in the kitchen! Many thanks to ASU nutrition student Sarah Jones for her research and writing about them. We hope this information launches you on some new adventures in your kitchen!
Unless you have Celiac Disease or are gluten intolerant, you likely consume wheat (Triticum aestivum) in some form on a regular basis. Whether it is bread, bagels, English muffins, cereal, tortillas, crackers, cookies, etc., it is a common staple in a typical North American diet. Wheat is thought to have been first cultivated in the Nile region and is the world’s third most common cereal crop, second to rice, with corn being the most common. Unlike other grains, wheat has a relatively high amount of gluten, the protein that provides the elasticity necessary for breadmaking and produces the “highest-quality bread and baking flours.”
What you may not be so familiar with is the term “wheat berry,” which is the entire unprocessed wheat kernel (minus the hull) and is comprised of 100% of the original kernel. In order for it to be classified as a TRUE whole grain, all of the bran, germ and endosperm must be present.
The bran, which is the rough covering, has very little nutritional value, but is packed full of insoluble fiber (insoluble fiber acts as a sponge as it moves through the digestive system). The germ is the main concentrated source of vitamins (particularly vitamin E and some B vitamins), minerals and protein. It should be noted that the germ contains polyunsaturated fat, therefore unless it has been “defatted”, should be refrigerated or it will quickly become rancid. The endosperm is full of starch, protein, niacin (vitamin B1) and iron. According to the World’s Healthiest Foods website, one cup of cooked wheat berries has 151 calories, 5.6 g of protein, 34 g of carbohydrates and 8 g of total fiber. There are also other types of whole grain berries related to wheat. I have experimented with barley, spelt, kamut (kah-MOOT) and rye berries. Kamut, in particular, is two to three times the size of most wheat, is high in protein and has a delicious nutty flavor… but that is for another blog!
Perhaps now you are saying, “I want to incorporate wheat berries into my diet, but I don’t know what the heck I do with them?!” This chewy, dense and nutty grain can be used in salads, as a breakfast cereal, pilaf (in place of rice), in chili, as a base for pudding, in risotto, etc. – wheat berries are incredibly versatile! This week you were lucky enough to receive Ramona Farms durum wheat berries in your Chow Locally box, so be sure to check out some of the links to recipes that use the ingredients in your box! On a final note, I found this quote by Julia Child that sums up how I view cooking and with Chow Locally providing the tools to make it happen, you cannot help but be inspired to get in the kitchen and start creating, “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.” I could not have said it better myself!
BASIC COOKING INSTRUCTIONS:
Rinse and boil (with or without a bit of salt) for about an hour; drain and rinse once more (some instructions I found said to soak overnight, but some others said they do not need to be soaked overnight). If they are too chewy for you after one hour of cooking, add more water (if needed) and just cook them a bit longer! Here is a basic recipe for cooking wheat berries from Eating Well magazine.
Wheat Berry Salad with Raisins, Beets and Citrus Vinaigrette
Ingredients used from Chow Locally box: wheat berries, beets, spring onions and carrots. This salad would also be a great over Maya’s Farm magenta Batavian head lettuce and/or the Agritopia Farm spring salad mix.
Roasted Root Vegetable and Wheat Berry Salad
Ingredients used from Chow Locally box: wheat berries, turnips and carrots (possible recipe additions from the box include: chopped red Russian kale and spring onions). This salad would also be a great over Maya’s Farm magenta Batavian head lettuce and/or the Agritopia Farm spring salad mix.
Wheat Berry Black Bean Chili
Ingredients used from Chow Locally box: wheat berries (possible recipe additions from the box include: chopped red Russian kale, carrots, turnips and top the chili with spring onions). Pair this with a green salad drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and S/P to taste.
Creamy Orange Spiked Wheat Berry Pudding
“An intensely vanilla and orange flavored pudding made with chewy wheat berries and spiked with rum.” Citrus is still in season and this would be a perfect spring dessert!
- Herbst, Sharon. Food lover’s companion. Third Edition. Hauppauge, NY:Barron’s. 2001, 667-668. Print.
- Brown, Amy. Understanding food principles & preparation. Fourth edition. Belmont, CA:Wadsworth. 2011, 350. Print.
- “Wheat: in-depth nutrient analysis.” The world’s healthiest foods. 2012. The george mateljan foundation, Web. April 5, 2012. <http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrientprofile&dbid=133>.