Farro is a delicious grain that has a rich, nutty flavor and holds it shape and texture when cooked. It is somewhat reminiscent of barley. Its earliest common name was Emmer and it is native to the Fertile Crescent area of the Middle East. Grains found in the area have been dated back to 17,000 BC. It was cultivated in ancient Egypt along with einkorn and barley. Some think that the Romans conquered Egypt to control their granaries to feed the Roman legions. Pliny the Elder wrote that it was called far in his time. Farro has been grown in Tuscany for a long time and is part of their cuisine. Today farro is grown in many parts of Europe and Ethiopia and in the U.S. It grows best in barren, high-altitude terrain. Farro can be ground into flour for use in making bread and pasta although since it is low in gluten it must be combined with another flour when baking.
Farro commonly comes in three forms: whole-grain (the most nutritious), semi-pearled (the bran is scored), and pearled (the bran is completely removed). Semi-pearled farro cooks in about half of the time as whole-grain farro. Here in Montana, Timeless Natural Food grows organic farro and sells it semi-pearled. Go to www.timelessfood.com for information on distributors or buying it directly from the company. Timeless products are sold world-wide.
Farro pairs well with white runner beans, mushrooms and root vegetables.
If using whole-grain farro, soak the farro in a bowl covered with water in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours. For all types of farro, rinse with water before using.
Bring 2-1/2 cups of water to boil. Add one teaspoon of salt to the water. Stir in 1 cup of the rinsed farro, stirring to make sure that all the grains are in contact with the boiling water. Reduce the heat to medium-low or low to keep a gentle simmer.
Cook as follows for an al dente texture:
• Whole grain, not soaked — 40 minutes
• Whole grain, soaked –20 minutes
• Semi-pearled — 25 minutes
• Pearled — 20 minutes
Check the texture after the first 20 minutes of cooking. If you want the farro softer, cook for an additional 5-15 minutes added to the times listed above. Timing will vary depending on the gentleness of the simmer. When it is cooked to your liking, remove from the heat and drain any excess water from the pot.
One cup of uncooked farro will provide about two servings.