Monday, July 14, 2008

Unpelted Wheat? Mystery Solved

Recently, I stopped by North Park Produce and was noodling around the packaged foods when I found a bag of unpelted wheat packaged by Sadaf. Looked interesting so I brought it home. I couldn't find any reference to it except that it is used in Iranian cooking to celebrate the New Year.

Well, it was inexpensive and I figured how wrong could I go if I just cooked it up like other grains? So after a week or so of procrastination, I pulled out the bag and experimented. I put a cup of the wheat into a pot with two cups of water, brought it to a low boil and then reduced the heat and let it simmer uncovered for about an hour. While it was cooking, I sauteed half of a medium-sized diced red onion and two cloves of minced garlic. Once the water was completely absorbed and the wheat was cooked (chewy with a little bite), I emptied it into a bowl, added the sauteed onion and garlic and mixed it with a little red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper, and chopped chives and thyme from my garden. I then let it sit for about an hour for the flavors to take.

It turned out great. In fact, it was suspiciously familiar. So I opened the pantry door, pulled out my jar of wheat berries and, well, wouldn't you know. That's what unpelted wheat is.

You can, of course, find wheat berries at Henry's, Whole Foods and well, North Park Produce -- as unpelted wheat.

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  1. Persians typically use wheat berries to create "sabzi" for the New Year. First, you soak the berries, then you place them on a plate and cover them with a wet towel. Once the berries sprout, you take the towel off and let them grow. The resulting green shoots are used as part of the traditional New Year display (the haft sin). I've never seen my Persian in-laws cook with wheat berries, but it could be a regional thing.

  2. Thanks, Liza! Sabzi was the only reference I had found but couldn't find a recipe in English so I wasn't even sure what it was.

    Appreciate your feedback!


  3. How do wheat berries compare to Quinoa in taste/ nutrition? I’m intrigued.

  4. Hi Maya:
    Wheat berries are wheat as a whole grain -- short kernels, not heat treated, polished or milled. They're filled with fiber and very hearty with a nutty taste.

    Quinoa is thought of as a grain, but technically it's not a true grain but the seed of the Goosefoot plant. But it's used as a grain and has been cultivated in the South American Andes since at least 3,000 BC. It's referred to by the Incas as the "mother grain." The seeds or grains range from ivory and pink to dark red and even black. It just depends on the variety. They're high in protein, calcium and iron, as well as vitamin E and several of the B vitamins. It's considered to be a complete protein. Oh, and rinse quinoa in a strainer before cooking to remove saponin, a bitter, resin-like coating.

    As for taste, it, too, has a nutty taste, probably more delicate that the robust wheat berry. Cooked correctly, it gets fluffy (kind of like couscous) but has a little crunch to it.

  5. Thanks Caron. Good tip on rinsing the quinoa. Is wheat berry as nutrituous as quinoa?

  6. That's getting beyond my area of expertise. Both are very nutritious and tasty. I think nutritionists would tell you that grains like these should be a regular part of your diet, along with fresh fruits and vegetables, etc.