While shopping at the Food Share last week, my room mate and I snagged a bag of wheat berries. I was absolutely convinced I had cooked with them before, but when I got home, not a single one of my cookbooks included a relevant recipe. A quick poll of my friends revealed that none of them had every cooked a wheat berry, and that the internet would have to provide my wheat berry education.
Now you may be more familiar with wheat berries than I am, but for my fellow novices, let me provide a brief run-down. Though called a berry, wheat berries are actually simply unprocessed wheat. It doesn’t get any more whole grain than this! Every wheat product you enjoy originated with the wheat berry. What’s more, wheat berries are a great source of potassium, iron, and dietary fiber. Consider using them to replace another grain in a recipe you love, or adding them to a favorite soup, salad, or chili recipe. Do you like fresh sprouts for sandwiches and salads? Add a small amount of water and place in the sun to start your own wheat sprouts! If you have the supplies, you can even grind up wheat berries to make home-made flour.
Cook wheat berries by covering them with an ample amount of water, adding a pinch of salt, and boiling until soft. Depending on the variety you have, this will take 45 minutes to an hour and a half. Just like with beans, pre-soaking the berries overnight will reduce your cooking time. Cooking them is a time investment, but bringing them into your diet will do your body a favor. Keep in mind, though, wheat berries are wheat. If you or a loved one has a gluten intolerance or sensitivity, this grain should be avoided.
You now know everything you need to incorporate wheat berries into recipes you already know and love! If you are feeling adventurous, give the recipe below a try. This simple salad does well as a main dish, or a side, and is well on its way to becoming a standard in my house.
- 1 ½ cups wheat berries
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- ½ cup dried fruit, chopped
- 1 entire scallion or ½ small onion, chopped
- ½ cup finely chopped parsley leaves, or dried herb of your choice to taste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 table spoons lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place wheat berries in a large pot and cover with water. The water level should be about 2 inches above the wheat berries. Add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cook until soft, about 1 hour. Drain the berries and allow them to cool.
- In a dry medium skillet, toast the walnuts over medium heat until they become fragrant. This should take about 2-3 minutes. If desired, also sauté any or all of the chopped vegetables. I sautéed the onions.
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Season to taste as needed.
What are your favorite recipes that call for wheat berries? Share them with us!
By Kassia Rudd
Kassia Rudd is a local gardener committed to furthering community and environmental health through sustainable food systems education and outreach.