What is farro?

Jessie D


savorthis June 27, 2013
I love farro because it is really hard to mess up. It is good a little chewy (tossed with herb paste for salads) but also good soft (blend a cup of it and stir it back in for a risotto of sorts). We eat it all the time. But until I could find it affordably, I tried kamut (a fraction of the cost here) and came home sad to read that it required pre-soaking and a long cooking time. So I opted to try it in the pressure cooker and it was great! It was definitely chewier than farro and did not seem to leach (or have maybe?) as much starch so the grains stayed more separate where farro got a little stickier. Both are staples in our house now.
pierino June 27, 2013
Very interesting answers. Farro perlato is very popular in Umbria for the reasons Maedl outlined. I've enjoyed it there in a strong broth with nothing more than grated parmigiano. This on the advice of one of my friends who lives in Assisi.
Maedl June 27, 2013
I just found the info below on NPR's site in a story about Umbria.

Farro is a member of the wheat family and is related to emmer, spelt and similar grains. It has a nutty taste and a chewy texture. Farro tolerates poor soil and high altitudes, which is why it has been grown for centuries in the mountains of Tuscany, Umbria and the Abruzzi. Because it is a whole grain, it breaks down slowly in the human body and provides steady energy without causing spikes in blood sugar, as refined flour does. This may explain why the ancient Romans built an empire while eating farro porridge daily. It is imported to the United States. Farro labeled "semiperlato (partly pearled)" will cook faster than ordinary farro, and farro labeled "perlato (pearled)" will cook even faster. If you encounter completely untreated farro, give it an overnight soak in water before cooking.
Maedl June 27, 2013
Seriously?! I still have the kamut remains in the closet. It never softened during cooking, and I cooked it a good two hours. Do you presoak It? Farro cooks quickly--usually within 15 or 20 minutes.
Maedl June 27, 2013
Kamut and farro are definitely not the same. I couldn't find farro and used kamut as a substitute and it just didn't work. In popular literature, there is a great bit of misinformation out there. I even find packages of what is labeled as farro that are definitely not farro, so buyer beware.
boulangere June 27, 2013
Gosh, Maedl, I use kamut in place of farro regularly and successfully.
ChefOno June 27, 2013
Cynthia, Kamut is a brand name of khorasan, not emmer (farro) The information is on the Web site you referenced here: http://www.kamut.com/en/origin.html

boulangere June 27, 2013
Here is a link to quite an informative site about farro, also known as kamut. It describes its origin and taxonomy, as well as it chromosomal differences from durum wheat. Wheat carries a lower glycemic load than kamut because the latter is higher in carbohydrates per serving, 131 grams vs 87 grams. Kamut, however, is significantly higher in protein than durum wheat: 27 grams per serving as opposed to 16 in an uncooked state. Once cooked, the protein differences diminish; cooked kamut contains 6 grams of protein per serving and wheat 5 grams. Kamut is very high in the vitamins thiamine and niacin, as well as in the minerals iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. Durum wheat contains approximately half the thiamine and niacin of kamut, average amounts of magnesium and phosphorous, and high amounts of manganese and selenium. Selenium is essential to a healthy immune system, and is believed to guard against several cancers. Kamut, a much larger kernel than durum wheat, contains less gluten than wheat, which makes it palatable to some, though not all, people with gluten intolerance. And because of its lower gluten content, it tends not to be especially suitable for bread - it behaves much as spelt does, producing a more tender, flatter loaf. That said, the whole grain makes wonder pilafs, and is excellent in soups and stews. Much of the world's Kamut is grown in Montana. This site has some excellent, concise information on its history, cultivation, and dissemination worldwide: http://www.kamut.com/press/Foodceo.com.pdf
boulangere June 27, 2013
Sorry, I neglected to include the first link I mentioned: http://www.kamut.com
Maedl June 27, 2013
this question comes up frequently. Below are two answers posted to the same question about a year ago:
pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.
added about 1 year ago
The contemporary scientific name is triticum dicoccum. It's a cereal grain often called emmer. Spelt is a close cousin. Often people who are gluten intolerant find this digestable. But it's great anyway. Goes back to the Romans.
added about 1 year ago
Farro is an early, pre-hybridized wheat, in other words, one of the ancient grains. Farro is the Italian name for the grain, but it is also known as emmer. Spelt and einkorn are also early forms of wheat.
the easiest way to understand the differences is to look at the Latin names of modern wheat, emmer, einkorn, and spelt and then lookmat pictures of the grain and the grain heads. There is a lot of botanical distinction involved, but all these grains are delicious and belong on the table.

ChefOno June 27, 2013

The problem with Googling is the first entry is usually Wikipedia, a conglomeration of fact and fallacy, one never knows which. If you ask Food52, you should, at least eventually, get to the right answer if there is "one", or if opinions vary, a representative sample from which to choose.

I stopped reading the NYT article when it claimed "farro is not wheat". That farro is also known as "emmer wheat" should have been a clue to whoever wrote that piece. Wikipedia stumbled all over itself getting even its proper name (Triticum turgidum dicoccum) incorrect.

So, Jessie, one answer is that farro is an ancient wheat which was long ago replaced by durum and bread wheats which have superior properties for making pasta and bread. From a technical perspective, farro's gluten is neither as strong as durum nor as elastic as bread wheats.

Farro can also be described as a fad, popular for the moment because it's popular, the Paris Hilton of grains (or is that spelt? -- I can't keep up). There are also some who believe it has mystic properties maybe because it sounds like "pharaoh" (I'm not sure about why, the whole concept goes way beyond my scope of interest).

pierino June 27, 2013
Professor Maillard I agree with most of what you have to say except that in Italy it is not especially as a bread or pasta flour. In Tuscany and Umbria it would be consumed as a whole grain like rice. Very tasty when done right.
Another historical detail; the Romans conquered the World at least the portion that was known to the flat earth crowd. After that though, Cristoro Colombo brought back the products from the other side of the globe including peppers, tomatoes, corn (granturco in Italian) and eventually N. American wheat showed up.
krusher June 26, 2013
Respectfully ... Googling it might be a good start then check the Food52 recipe index under the entry "farro". As you only joined on 26 June 2013 I guess you are still finding your way around this excellent site. Suggest you get to know and experience its excellent resources.
drbabs June 26, 2013
Here's an article that answers your question: http://www.nytimes.com/1997/06/11/garden/farro-italy-s-rustic-staple-the-little-grain-that-could.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm
Recommended by Food52