Thursday, March 11, 2010

Farro: A Taste Test

Farro, also known as emmer wheat, is an ancient variety of wheat. I first heard of it about a year ago when someone on Food Network used it. Apparently it's a little more common in Italy, but my local grocery stores certainly didn't have it.

When I spotted a bag of farro at an ethnic market, I had to buy it. It came packaged in a cloth bag inside a vacuum-sealed plastic bag, so I couldn't see what it looked like until I got it home. But that certainly didn't deter me from buying.

A quick search online told me that farro has more fiber than wheat, that it's good warm or cold, and that it's good in soup. In some areas, it's ground and used for bread, which makes sense, since it's a type of wheat. Once source said that farro pasta can have an odd texture that some people find unpleasant, but since the grain itself was hard to find, I don't imagine that I'll be running into a lot of farro pasta at the grocery store.

For a taste test, I decided to go with a simple preparation. The first glitch was that the instructions were in Italian on the label of the bag that I bought. So much for that.
I poked around online for basic cooking instructions, and finally settled on a ratio of 1 part farro to 3 parts water. I gave it a quick rinse and put it in my rice cooker with a little salt and a little olive oil. I set it on the "brown rice" setting and let it go.

When it was done, it had fluffed up a lot, and it had sort of popped, showing the white interior of the grain. I thought the taste was similar to barley, and it was pleasantly chewy. I had expected something more like bulghur wheat in texture, but it was quite different. Maybe that was a result of the cooking method, but at this point I'd say that it really is different enough to make it worth buying when I find it again.