Farro is a small, brown, ancient grain with a distinctive nutty flavor and chewy texture. It can be cooked and added to soups and salads or used instead of pasta or rice in classic dishes like macaroni and cheese or risotto. Flour made from ground farro can be used to make bread or pasta; however, this preparation is less popular than eating the cooked grain. Farro is high in protein and a good source of complex carbohydrates. Unlike other grains, farro does not lose nutritional value through processing. It is also the lowest calorie grain. Farro is self-propagating and grows well in dry climates. Most of the farro eaten today is exported from Italy.
Farro originated in the Middle East, where it was one of the first plants to be cultivated. It was a staple food of the Roman Army, who carried it throughout the Roman Empire. However, as different types of grain were cultivated, farro became less popular as a staple food due to its low yield.
Farro is often confused with spelt, but they are not interchangeable and must be cooked differently. This confusion stems from the Italian language, where the word “farro” is translated as spelt. Spelt is an unshelled kernel commonly ground into flour, whereas farro is a shelled kernel that is usually cooked. Because spelt is unshelled, it requires a much longer cooking time. Unfortunately, some retailers of farro and spelt use the names interchangeably, so it is important to follow the cooking directions written on the package.
A highly nutritious and delicious grain, farro can usually be bought in bulk at health food stores. As an ancient grain, farro has not been altered genetically to improve yield or ease of production which leads it to have a higher price than other grains due to its low-yield and higher processing requirements. Farro is sold in three grades. The longer the farro grain, the better the grade. It can be stored in a sealed glass container to keep it from absorbing any moisture from the air, but the best way to keep farro fresh is to store it in the freezer, either raw or cooked.
Copyright ©2011. Published with permission. Miriam Bitner is a freelance writer and is not affiliated with avivahealth.com.