When it comes to choosing grains for a healthy diet, it can be hard to know where to start. There are so many options available, from quinoa and brown rice to oats and barley. Two grains that have been gaining popularity in recent years are farro and wheat berries. While both are ancient grains with a rich history, they have different nutritional profiles, tastes, textures, and culinary uses. In this article, we’ll compare farro and wheat berries to help you decide which one is right for your diet.
What are Farro and Wheat Berries?
Farro is an ancient grain that has been a staple food in Italy for thousands of years. It’s a type of wheat that has been minimally processed, with only the outer husk removed. This means that farro retains much of its nutritional value, including protein, fiber, and minerals like magnesium and iron. Wheat berries are the whole grain form of wheat, meaning they include the bran, germ, and endosperm. They have a similar nutritional profile to farro but are slightly larger and have a slightly different taste.
Farro was a staple of the ancient Roman diet and has been grown in Italy for thousands of years. It’s made a comeback in recent years as part of the “ancient grains” trend. Wheat berries, on the other hand, have been a staple food in many cultures for centuries, including in the Middle East and Asia.
Both farro and wheat berries have become popular ingredients in modern-day cuisine, particularly in plant-based and Mediterranean diets. They can be used in a variety of dishes, from salads and soups to pilafs and grain bowls.
Comparison of Farro vs Wheat Berries
Farro and wheat berries are both high in fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates. Farro contains slightly fewer calories than wheat berries, with 170 calories per 1/4 cup serving compared to 180 calories per 1/4 cup serving for wheat berries. Farro also contains slightly more protein than wheat berries, with 6 grams per serving compared to 5 grams per serving for wheat berries.
Both farro and wheat berries are excellent sources of dietary fiber, which can help regulate digestion and promote feelings of fullness. Farro contains more fiber than wheat berries, with 3 grams per serving compared to 2 grams per serving for wheat berries.
Farro and wheat berries are both rich in micronutrients like magnesium, iron, and zinc. Farro is particularly high in magnesium, which is important for bone health, and iron, which is essential for transporting oxygen in the blood. Wheat berries are a good source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that can help protect against cell damage.
Taste and Texture
Farro has a nutty, slightly sweet flavor that’s similar to brown rice or barley. Wheat berries have a slightly nuttier and earthier taste, with a hint of sweetness.
Farro is slightly chewy and has a pleasant bite, while wheat berries are firmer and have a crunchier texture. Both grains hold up well in soups and stews and can be used in salads and pilafs.
Farro is often used in Italian cuisine, particularly in salads and grain bowls. It pairs well with roasted vegetables, nuts, and herbs like rosemary and thyme. Wheat berries are more commonly used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes, like tabbouleh and pilafs. They can also be used in soups and stews, or as a substitute for rice in dishes like risotto.
Both farro and wheat berries need to be soaked overnight before cooking to help soften their tough outer layers. After soaking, drain the grains and rinse them thoroughly.
Farro can be cooked like pasta, in a large pot of boiling salted water, for about 20-30 minutes. It can also be cooked in a pressure cooker or slow cooker. Wheat berries can be cooked in a pot of boiling water for 45-60 minutes, or in a pressure cooker for 25-30 minutes.
To prevent overcooking, it’s important to check the texture of the grains often while cooking. Farro should be tender but still slightly chewy, while wheat berries should be tender but still firm to the bite. If the grains are too hard, add more liquid and continue cooking.
Farro is often used in salads and grain bowls, like this farro and roasted vegetable salad with feta cheese and balsamic glaze. Wheat berries are often used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes, like this wheat berry and roasted beet salad with feta cheese and lemon vinaigrette.
Here are two recipes that showcase the versatility of farro and wheat berries:
1. Farro Risotto with Mushrooms and Parmesan Cheese:
- 1 cup farro, soaked overnight and drained
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the mushrooms and cook until they release their moisture, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the farro and stir to coat in the onion and mushroom mixture.
- Add the white wine and stir until absorbed.
- Add the vegetable broth, 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently until each cup is absorbed before adding the next.
- Once the farro is tender but still slightly chewy, stir in the Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Vegetables and Feta Cheese:
- 1 cup wheat berries, soaked overnight and drained
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Toss the sweet potato and red onion with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Roast the vegetables on a baking sheet for 20-25 minutes, or until tender and golden brown.
- While the vegetables are roasting, cook the wheat berries in a pot of boiling salted water for 45-60 minutes, or until tender but still firm to the bite. Drain and rinse the wheat berries.
- In a large bowl, mix together the cooked wheat berries, roasted vegetables, parsley, and feta cheese.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Farro and wheat berries are both whole grains that are rich in fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Farro is slightly higher in protein and fiber than wheat berries, whole wheat berries are slightly higher in iron and folate.
Eating whole grains like farro and wheat berries can help lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. They can also help with weight management, digestion, and overall health and well-being.
Both farro and wheat berries are delicious, versatile whole grains that can be used in a variety of dishes. While they have some differences in flavor and texture, they are both nutritious and beneficial for your health. Try incorporating both grains into your diet for a well-rounded and satisfying meal plan.