The Grain of Freekeh…(August 2015)
Have you seen the name freekeh (also referred to as farik) on various restaurant menus lately? Has it sparked your curiosity about what this new mystery grain is? As we explore the different grains to hit the restaurant circuit, I recap in my mind the various grains that have risen in popularity: first there was quinoa, then farro, now freekeh. Something that all three of these grains have in common is that they are high in both protein and fiber. But let’s take a closer look at this relatively new entry into the popular-grain market.
Freekeh (pronounced FREE-kuh), also known as “baby wheat,” originated in the Middle East and is native to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt. It was discovered about 2000 years ago when a village was attacked and its young wheat crop was set on fire. The villagers rubbed away the burnt layer of this young grain and cooked the remaining portion, which is now called freekeh.
Today, freekeh is a young, green wheat which is harvested during its peak nutritional state. After it has been harvested, freekeh is charred or roasted. This process not only enhances the flavor profile by imparting a smokiness to it, but it also protects the grain, as does the grain’s high moisture content. The texture can be described as crunchy accompanied by a flavor similar to rice and barley. This registered dietitian thinks it tastes like rice and kamut.
One-half cup of this nutritionally rich whole grain contains 160 calories, 32 grams of carbohydrate, 7 grams of fiber, and 6 grams of protein. Additionally, it is a great source of iron. Health promoting lutein and zeaxanthin, which contribute to the color of the grain, are naturally found in freekeh as are minerals important to our overall health: phosphorous, selenium, potassium, and magnesium. It is also speculated that freekeh may act as a prebiotic (good for gut health). This all serves to make freekeh a nutritional powerhouse but it is important to note that freekeh is not gluten-free. It is lower in gluten content than wheat because the gluten is not fully developed when freekeh is harvested.
Food stores such as Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Erewhon, all known for specializing in organic and natural foods, are stores in which this grain, relatively new to the American market, might be purchased. Of course, one can purchase freekeh online as well.
Freekeh is rather dense, so to cook 1 cup dry, you must use 2 ½ cups of the liquid of your choice; cook time should be 20-25 minutes or until the grain has reached a satisfactory consistency. The internet is a good source for recipes.
So why not give this relatively new entry to the market a try. I hope you are as satisfied with it as I am!