One of the things I love best about the Mill Spring Farm Store is discovering new foods. Like last week’s blog on duck eggs, I’d never heard of Hard Red Wheat Berries until finding them at the store. Now I am having a total love affair with them - oh where had they been all my life?
Whether you call them wheat berries or wheatberries, they are the entire edible part of wheat kernels, meaning it includes the germ, bran and endosperm but no hull or outer shell.
They come in Red or White, Hard or Soft and sometimes defined by season: Cold or Warm. Some may be found as pearled or semi pearled.
Wheatberries can be ground for flour (hard having a higher gluten content and thus better for breads and soft being better for pastries) and the Mill Spring Farm Store sells both the Hard Red Wheat Berries themselves and wheatberry flour ground at a North Carolina stone mill. I like to eat the wheatberries!
You can cook them up and have them as you would an oatmeal or cream of wheat hot breakfast cereal, you can add them to soups or stews as you would barley or my personal favorite, cooked and served cold in salads.
I love the nuttiness and texture of the little wheatberries and I learned you can toast the wheatberries before cooking to kick the nuttiness up a notch. Since learning this method, I always cook them this way. Also, some recipes I found call for soaking the wheatberrie as you would dried beans, I've found this is really not necessary and only shortens the cooking time by about 10 minutes.
How to Cook Wheat Berries
1 cup Wheatberries
3 cups liquid (water is fine, but using veggie or meat broths infuse into the berries and helps the flavor to pop)
Salt to taste (usually not necessary with meat broths)
This step is optional but sooo worth it!
Preheat oven to 375, pour a cup of wheat berries on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes (just until you start to smell them) and they just begin to brown (some may pop on you but that’s okay)
Cook on the Stove. Transfer the wheat berries from the baking sheet into a sauce pan and add 3 cups of liquid and maybe a big pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cover the pan.
Start checking for doneness at about 35 minutes by scooping out a few berries and carefully tasting after they've cooled a bit. Keep checking every five minutes until they reach a tender, yet chewy consistency.
The specific kind of wheat berry you buy, as well as how old it is, will influence the cooking time and may take as much as 25 minutes more. If you have pearled or semi-pearled varieties, they will definitely be less time. Start checking those at 15-20 minutes. My experience with the ones from the MSFS is about 40-45 minutes.
Drain the berries in the strainer and transfer to a bowl. Toss with a splash of olive oil and another pinch of salt.
Now once they cool I will add about 1 cup of cooked wheatberries to my Winter Bean Salad and store the rest in the refrigerator to add to other dishes. To serve hot, reheat in a frying pan over low heat just until hot.
Winter Bean Salad
Black Beans, 1-1/2 cup cooked or 1 can drained
Chick Peas, 1-1/2 cup cooked or 1 can drained
Edamame, 1 cup cooked and shelled
Wheatberries, 1 cup cooked
3 Green onions, sliced, white & green part
Grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
Small bunch parsley, chopped
Your favorite vinegarette about ¼ cup
S&P to taste
(NOTE: Adding chopped cucumbers makes this my Summer Bean Salad!)
Toss all in bowl and refrigerate about 1 hour. Keeps well in the ‘fridge as a meal over chopped greens or as a quick side dish.