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Grain of the Month: Farro PDF Print E-mail

By Chris Ellis, Staff Nutritionist
September 2016

I have yet another marvelous grain to add to your pantry repertoire: farro. I have been surveying all the bulk grains recently to see which ones I know and which ones are new to me. Farro stood out as one of a few that I was only slightly familiar with and then it just so happened that I was requested to write about it. What a great opportunity to learn more about it!    

Farro is the ancient Italian name for emmer wheat. Modern wheat evolved from this ancient heirloom grain and many often refer to it as the mother of wheat. The roots of farro have been traced back to the Fertile Crescent and the ancient Roman Empire. Farro was a main staple in the daily diet of Egyptians before it became popular for Romans and Italians. Farro had the nickname "pharaoh's wheat" because of its popularity in Egypt. After it came to Italy, farro was used almost daily as a main source of nutrition for all different economic classes. Generations of Tuscan farmers have grown farro and continue to do so since it is a very popular grain in Italy.  

Farro has much more to offer nutritionally than wheat and is easier to digest too. It has more protein than modern-day wheat and provides a complete source of protein when combined with legumes or beans. It is a rich source of fiber, magnesium, the B-vitamin niacin, as well as zinc and iron. It does contain gluten but in lesser amounts than wheat. The gluten molecules are more fragile. This attribute makes farro more digestible and easier to be absorbed by the body which enables some with wheat intolerance to tolerate eating farro. The high amount of
magnesium in farro has been shown to be beneficial for glucose and insulin secretion, which in turn can support both blood sugar issues and heart health. Research has shown other plant components in farro to be beneficial for inflammation support, stimulating the immune system, and supporting healthy cholesterol levels.

After having cooked and eaten farro several times now, it reminds me of both barley and spelt, and it is often described as such. It has a similar texture and flavor to both of those grains.

Farro comes in different varieties, from its most whole state to semi-pearled and pearled, and the variety you select determines its cooking time. The whole version of farro requires soaking and takes more time to cook, and has all its nutrients intact. The variety of farro sold in the Bulk department at the Co-op is the pearled version. It does have less fiber and nutrients than the whole version but still remains a nutrient-dense food. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to cook and is prepared much the same way as rice, using double the amount of liquid to grain.     

Give farro a try this month! With the abundance of local fresh produce at this time of year, now is the ideal time to try it out. It’s great in soups, stews, casseroles, and salads, and even as a hot cereal in the morning. It lends a distinctly nutty taste and chewy texture to anything you may prepare, and adds a significant nutritional punch as well.

Be sure to try theis Farro risotto with winter squash and riboons of kale!!