A Staple in Roman Society

Farro is said to have sustained the Romans as they conquered the world 7,000 years ago. Legend had it that Julius Caesar himself brought it to Italy after invading Egypt in 30 B.C.

Known as the Pharoah’s wheat because it was the only wheat cultivated in pharoanic times, this nutritious, high-energy grain was a staple in Roman society.

Also Know as Emmer Wheat

Also known as emmer wheat, farro (triticum dicoccon) is the Italian name for this hulled ancient mother grain that gave rise to modern wheat. Often confused with spelt they are two distinct, though closely related grains. Armed with more than twice the protein and fiber of modern wheat, each grain of farro packs a nutritious punch. Not only is it rich in magnesium, niacin, zinc and iron, it also provides a complete protein source when combined with legumes.

Farro has a low gluten content with more fragile gluten molecules than those of modern wheat, making it easier to digest, and sometimes tolerable for many gluten-intolerant individuals. An excellent source of whole grains and complex carbohydrates, farro can play a significant role in maintaining healthy body weight, and reducing diabetes, heart disease, and cardiovascular disease risk, as well as helping to prevent certain forms of cancer.

Farro Findings

Farro is rich in minerals, antioxidants, lignans, phytonutrients and fiber. It’s magnesium content is important in glucose and insulin secretion, which helps fight metabolic syndrome, a strong predictor of type 2 diabetes and cariodvascular disease. New studies have found that betaine, present in whole grains like farro, may work together with choline to prevent chronic and stress induced inflammation. Research shows also that farro contains a special type of carbohydrate called cyanogenic glucosides that stimulate the immune system, lower choesterol and play a role in blood clotting.

Farro is sold whole, semi-pearled and pearled (which determines cooking time), and is also available as flour and pasta. The grain looks like plump barley and may be successfully interchanged in recipes calling for spelt, barley and quinoa, though cooking times will vary.

Look for pearlized farro (farro perlato) and prepare as you would rice: Use a 2:1 liqid to grain ratio, add farro to boiling water or broth, simmer covered for 25 to 35 minutes to desired tenderness and drain unabsorbed liquid. Enjoy farro’s distinctly nutty flavor and al dente bite in soups and in salads. Join the resurgence of this mother grain that has caught the eye of both gourmets and the health-conscious.

Notable Nutrients

Per one-half cup:

  • Calories: 170
  • Carbohydrate: 34 grams
  • Dietary Fiber: 5 grams
  • Protein: 6 grams
  • Iron: 2 milligrams
  • Niacin: 4 milligrams
  • Magnesium: 60 milligrams
  • Zinc: 2 milligrams (15% DV)

Farro with Spinach Pesto Recipe

  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 pound farro
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 cups spinach leaves, stems removed
  • 1 cup flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Parmesan Cheese, grated (optional)

In a large saucepan over high heat, boil low sodium chicken broth. Add farro, reduce heat and simmer covered until tender, about 25 minutes.

In food processor, combine garlic, spinach and parsley. Pulse to coarsely chop. Add vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil. Pulse until mixture comes together. Toss warm farro and pesto, serve with grated parmesan cheese. Yield: 8 servings

Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 254, Protein: 17g, Fat: 4g, carbohydrates: 37g, sodium: 164mg, fiber: 3g

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