Fast becoming a nutritional trend in the United States, farro has actually been a dietary staple in some regions for thousands of years. It was even found in the ancient tombs of Egyptian pharaohs. Find out all about it, including why it’s so good for your health, how to buy it, and how to eat it.
What is this Ancient Grain?
Farro is a term that refers to three different types of grain. Their common names are einkorn, emmer, and spelt. However, their proper names are farro piccolo, farro medio, and farro grande, respectively. The terms are Italian for small, medium, and large.
Farro is named for the number of kernels it has per spike. Piccolo (small) has one kernel. Medio has two kernels. Grande has two ears, each with two or three kernels. It has been used in Italian dishes for thousands of years, as well.
The plant’s relationship to modern wheat is rather complex, but they are in the same family. It’s important to note that all three types of farro contain gluten. Some are lower than bread wheats, while others are higher. Anyone with Celiac disease must avoid farro. If you’re sensitive to gluten, proceed with caution.
Health Benefits of Farro
We need complex carbohydrates for sustained energy levels throughout the day. Farro is a good source cyanogenic glucosides. Those carbs help stabilize blood sugar and lower cholesterol.
Fiber is another helpful component of Farro. It boasts more fiber than quinoa and brown rice.
Lingnans are an estrogenic, naturally occurring chemical found in some plants, such as flax seed. Farro is a great source. The lignans in farro act as antioxidants, which help lower risk of heart disease and risk of certain cancers.
Farro also has significant protein per serving. It contains as much as six grams of protein per 100 calorie serving. Steak has approximately 11 grams of protein. However, steak has more fat per serving than farro.
You’ll also get important minerals, such as zinc, magnesium, and iron, from eating farro.
The nutrients in farro will differ slightly depending on which type you buy and what form it is in. Some sources suggest that the gluten present in farro may be tolerated by people with a sensitivity. If you are concerned, discuss it with your doctor before trying the grain.
How to Buy it
When you look at a package of farro in a store, the label will state whether it is whole, semi-pearled, or pearled. Whole farro is still encased in its husk, so it must be soaked for a long time before cooking. Semi-pearled (semi-perlatto) retains much of the nutrients found in the husk, but takes less time to prepare than the whole version. Pearled (perlatto) can be cooked without any soaking, right when you intend to serve it.
How to Cook it
After soaking the farro for the appropriate length of time, you can prepare it quite easily. Much like cooking packaged rice or pasta, you put farro in a pan of water and bring it to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and stir occasionally until tender. It will absorb the liquid as rice does. You may also prepare farro in a rice cooker or pressure cooker.
You can use farro in myriad ways, such as in salads and soups. It works in sweet and savory dishes, such as cornbread stuffing, risotto, and porridge. It’s so simple to prepare and so nutritious, you can’t help but try it out.