Saturday, August 27, 2016

Whole Wheat...Kamut and Farro Review

I made a comment recently that "no one eats wheat, just flour." Later I wondered why. When I started looking, I found this statement could not be further from the truth. People have been eating wheat as a whole food item for thousands of years.

To explore, I bought a bag of Bob's Red Mill Farro and Kamut, the grains look like this:

Kamut (top left), Farro (top right), Modern Red Wheat (bottom)
I cooked the farro and kamut according to the basic cooking instructions, which were to "soak overnight in water and simmer for 30-40 minutes in water or stock."


The cooked kamut (soaked overnight and cooked in chicken stock) looks like this:

And it's very tasty. Quite amazing, really. It's kind of like very firm, large rice. It took on the flavor of the chicken stock nicely. I can see it would be nice to have a ready-cooked supply of this on hand to add to any dish, or just eat plain like we do with beans and rice.

The package has a recipe for "Grain Kushari," which, they say, is a common street food in Cairo. The ingredients being (Find full recipe here):

If I'm ever in Cairo, I'm gettin' some of this!

The word "Kamut" is always accompanied by a little trademark symbol. Apparently, this stuff is a variety of ancient wheat called "khorasan." Some farmers have revived the breed, and market it as kamut. The wikipedia article on Khorasan Wheat is very interesting!

According to a legend, those grains were found in the tomb of an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh, hence the nickname "King Tut's Wheat." It is not known when and how Khorasan wheat was introduced to Egypt. Another legend relates that Noah brings the grain on his ark resulting in the nickname "Prophet’s wheat." 

The mineral content of 1/4 cup of kamut (farro is similar) should make everyone here happy:

4.41 mg
134 mg
2.86 mg
386 mg
446 mg
3.68 mg

As well as the vitamins:

Thiamine (B1)
0.591 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.178 mg
Niacin (B3)
6.35 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.9 mg
Vitamin B6
0.255 mg
Vitamin E
0.6 mg

And, this 1/4 cup has 14g of protein and 9g of fiber.


I cooked the farro the same way as the kamut, and it looks like this:

It has a similar taste, but the grains are much smaller than kamut. Bob's website says this of farro:

Farro is an ancient relative of modern-day wheat. It was a mainstay of the daily diet in ancient Rome, and is still popular in Italy today. Farro is hearty and chewy, with a rich, nutty flavor. Use in stews, casseroles, salads and pilafs.

I will second the "hearty, chewy, and nuttiness" of the farro. Eaten plain, it's a delight.  Nothing like I would expect "wheat" to taste like if served on a plate. I'm really surprised this stuff has not caught on. I like it much better than rice, and eating just a little bit really makes it feel as if you've eaten something substantial.

The wiki on farro describes this as the forerunner to our modern wheat, and gives some ideas on how it's traditionally eaten:

Farro is a food composed of the grains of certain wheat species, sold dried and prepared by cooking in water until soft, but still crunchy (many recommend first soaking overnight). It may be eaten plain, though it is often used as an ingredient in dishes such as salads and soups.

Bob's website gives recipes for soup, salad, and risotto. I plan on making this tonight with tomatoes and kale from my garden:

Farro & Kale Risotto with Roasted Tomatoes

Farro is referred to as "whole grain alternative to white rice..." which I completely agree on. In fact, I think I may have found a new staple.


I've never had any problems with gluten that I know of.  If you are on a gluten-free diet, farro and kamut are not for you. However, if you are just avoiding gluten because of all you've been reading and have to real evidence that you are sensitive to gluten, then give these whole grains a try. Eating ancient breeds of whole wheat, cooked simply, is a far cry from eating Wonder bread.


My thought that "no one eats whole wheat" was completely wrong. People have been eating wheat since the dawn of civilization. Eating it today, as they did then, is a fun experience. I can see why humankind fell in love with wheat, it's just too bad that in our search for the perfect slice of white bread, we ruined it.

Anyone else ever tried farro or kamut? 



  1. I have had some farro sourdough bread a few weeks ago from a baker.
    It is called "emmer bread" here.
    It tasted very dense and nice. I liked it. It was so much more filling than a bread made by yeast.

    I recall reading somewhere a while ago that a gluten is not a gluten. Certain types of grains had some sort of different construction of the gluten, which made certain types of gluten containing grains easier to digest than others.

    A quick google search I found this:
    "There are many reasons why spelt is easier to digest than common wheat. The gluten in spelt is water soluble; it is degraded by heat and is easily broken down by mixing action. Wheat gluten, in contrast, does not break down in water and only relaxes when exposed to heat and seems to get stronger as it is mixed – bakers refer to it as “developing the gluten.”"

    Personally I do not think gluten should be bad by definition. I think the ancient grains which contain spelt should be okay. I cannot imagine that societies would live for so long using bread as a staple in the diet when it would be a bad thing. They did not "think" or "research" or "theorize" about the reason something should/could be bad. They just tried it out, and apparantly they liked it.
    I also remember reading a book from the 1900s by Bernarr Macfadden. He recommended bread to help with constipation. Specifically whole grain stale bread (bread that has been hardened a bit by leaving it laying around for a while after it had been baked). Perhaps leaving it out like that did something to the structure similar to the way that cooking->cooling potatoes does? I don't know.


    1. You've got a good head on your shoulders! I did not realize there were different gluten types, but it makes sense. I have always thought that longer fermenting breads are healthier for us than modern quick-rise breads.

      You are correct that staling of bread is similar to cooling potatoes. Exact same mechanism at work, retrogradation of starches.

    2. I've been eating the whole grains(as in not flour) for a few years now. Cooking them in stock is ok. My absolute favorite way is to make risottos with them. But it's a no-stir method I first learned in Modernist Cuisine at Home that I really like. The cooking takes 20 minutes, unlike what it would take using a stir method. And there is lots of flexibility.

      The idea, as I understand, is to cook the grains in a pressure cooker until they are done. Then, by applying the quick depressurization technique, the grains burst and release the starches associated with risottos. I've done this many, many times. The three keys seem to be: a pressure cooker, the grain to liquid ratio, and the cooking time for the chosen grain. Other thing are important but flexible, like the choice of liquid (stock, wine, beer), the ingredient that gives a creamy mouthfeel (butter, cheese, cream, olive oil, butternut squash purée, pumpkin purée), and other ingredients (mushrooms, parsley, snails, squid ink, apples, parsley, artichokes, asparagus, cocao powder, etc. ).

      For farro risotto, for instance, the base amount of farro is 150g with 200g of vegetable stock and 80g of white wine. Pressure cook for 15 minutes. Depressurize by running water over the pressure cooker. Fold in the other stuff. The book suggests olive oil, chicken, artichokes, and black olives.

      Pearl barley is likewise 150g compared to 280 g of liquid (180 mushroom stock and 100 Syrah wine). But the liquid could be anything. Pressure cook for 20 minutes, then quick release. This recommends butter and Gruyere cheese.

      Steel cut oat risotto: 150 g steel cut oats, 280 g of liquid (50 g ouzo, 230 chicken stock). Pressure cook for 7 minutes and quick release. Recommended additions are snails, green apples, Parmesan, and garlic confit.

      These are the main ones. Like I said, I use the base key ideas and then modify according to what I want. You can add all kinds of spices, making Mexican, Cajun, Thai, or Indian-flavored risottos.

    3. Bernarr Macfadden was one awesome dude!

    4. One of the pioneers of the Physical Culture movement which preceeded the ugly "bodybuilding" movement...

    5. I forgot to mention that I've done some risottos using grains not in the book, like kamut and freekeh, both at 20 minutes. The latter especially awesome. I also like making barley risotto using purple barley - mixing about 20% purple with regular.

    6. Thank you Wilbur. I tried cooking wheat before, and it was a bugger; it burnt at the drop of a hat. Pressure cooker sounds like exactly the way to go. Wonder how the Romans did it. Perhaps cook it in soup like pearl barley? I've noticed even in soup, pearl barley wants to stick to the bottom of the pot and burn if you even sneeze.

    7. The Farro and Kamut both cooked easily, no problems at all. I cooked them exactly like I cook beans. I'll bet they would do good in the rice cooker, too. Pressure cooker would be faster.

    8. I've not had trouble with it burning. i dunno.

  2. Farro is very popular in Denmark and has been so for some years now :)

  3. Tim, I finally made a decent barley bread as good as the rye bread.

  4. I've only done this with freekeh, but I bet it can be done with other grains, maybe even farro and barley.

    Cook it according to directions. Then spread it out on a pan to dry. (I put it someplace with good airflow.) Then sauté the dried grain in an oil. Olive oil would be good, but I like bacon grease. Then you have a great topping for salads, eggs, or lots of stuff.

  5. When I was a young Indiana farm girl, I'd climb into the grain truck loaded with wheat ready to go to the elevator and eat the wheat grains. I liked them.

    But now, I'm still one of those gluten-sensitive people. Every now and then I test it, wondering if I restored any integrity to the lining of my GI tract to keep the proteins and inflammatory reactions where they belong. Have failed so far. But I agree, excluding grains or foods on theories probably isn't the best. Although lots of religious groups do it.

    These grains look lovely and delicious, but are you sure you didn't get free samples? Or does it just feel that way because I'm one of those who can't eat this stuff symptom-free yet? ;-)

    1. Ha! That brings back memories. We did the same thing in Ohio. I loved chewing wheat, it turns into "gum." I actually chewed a couple grains of the farro, and it did the same thing...a nice sticky piece of gum.

      I'm definitely the last person who will say that gluten intolerance is all in your head. I think when people are trying to turn their health around, some low-hanging fruits are wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, seafood, and eggs. These are said to cause over 90% of food allergies, yet also some of the most life-sustaining foods there are.

      No free samples! Bite your tongue, lol.

    2. Isn't it dangerous getting into a truck full of wheat berries?
      I've cooked freekeh years ago. Never really got into it. Same with farro. Oat groats I love. Maybe I'll give kamut a try sometime.

    3. Dangerous...yes! And so was drinking out of garden hoses and driving farm equipment on the road at 12. Grain wagons are not very dangerous unless unloading the grain into an auger...that can get interesting, fast. We used to play in wagons full of grain and in the granary bins. Still alive!

    4. We ate the cracked corn and licked the salt blocks.... Probably a lot healthier than the homemade formula my mom made for us with Karo syrup!

    5. haha, I've also licked my share of salt blocks, horse slobber and all. Have you ever ridden in a manure loader on the front of a tractor? Great fun for farm kids!

    6. LOL! Boys are more adventurous than girls - you win!!!

    7. Yes, Gabriella, unlike Tim, I now think loaded grain trucks are dangerous due to potential air pockets, and I and hover over my kids when we visit home. Ha! Tim, yes, I have ridden on a manure loader on the front of a tractor! Had a pitch fork driven into my leg and all. I had free range of the hog barns and was always messing with the baby pigs (should not have been). I always see people talking about people who grew up on farms have less allergies, etc. But, I grew up on a farm. I ran totally unsupervised, playing in mud, manure, the barn, the pond, you name it. I've got all the same issues (exceptionally slow GI, food sensitivities, seasonal allergies, etc.). And, I visit home a lot. All the old farmers there seem to have the same issues too. And the kids. So, anecdotally, I have to disagree that there is a farm "protection." Maybe because of the other things: antibiotics, "stress," less reliance on garden food and dependence on sterile store bought food, etc.

    8. Hi Terry
      Your story reminds the story of the documentarist of What's with wheat told in podcast

      Of course, you might just be an unique snowflake but how the agriculture was done in the region might be a factor.

      My mother had the healthiest farm life ever but all the 10 siblings got colon cancer, celiac disease and/or seasonal allergies because of (her opinion) DTT in agriculture and lice treatment to head.
      Or just bad luck.

      Hopefully, she did not inherit to me anything epigenetic that I cannont reverse with real pure whole foods and blue zone lifestyle.

    9. Farming, especially grain harvesting, has changed so much in the last 25 years, it used to be a family-affair with smaller equipment, now it's more industrialized and automated with massively scaled equipment, definitely not a place for kids to play.

      Back in the 70's and 80's, there were loads of chemicals being used, many are now banned. Perhaps those were the worst times to be raised as a feral farm kid? Clusters of disease are always suspicious, but rarely does anyone ever accept blame.

      We are all exposed to a barrage of environmental natural and man-made toxins on a daily basis. Having a healthy gut is probably the #1 best defense we have against these.

  6. Haha, you guys need to read this: Dear Mark Sisson: Why Are Grains Unhealthy? Arthur Haines was saying all along (like Jane K.) that demonizing grain is the most damaging health movement ever.

    1. "In summary, I feel many of the detractions you note concerning grains are also true of other foods (foods we are not told to avoid) and some of the detractions aren’t a real issue if you learn to select gluten-free wild and heirloom grains and learn to process grains to minimize levels of antinutrients (a task that is not hard to learn). People have forgotten this latter aspect of culinary wisdom, but diets rich in wild foods (what I would argue are true paleo foods) often require some processing prior to consumption (e.g., leaching acorns to deal with tannins and phytic acid). I understand you may be attempting to create a simple message for people who do not have nutritional literacy, but this message can cause people to avoid foods that have been shown to be part of many healthy people’s diet (sometimes as a staple). Grains are paleo, they were eaten by several different paleo hominids. Simply because the United States has chosen to consume large amounts of a highly allergenic grain that does not mean all grains are bad. My message to people is: eat less grain (i.e., diversify your diet), choose wild and heirloom types, and select gluten-free kinds. You may think this is too complicated and with too many caveats, but it is an accurate message that does not attribute the ill effects of modern wheat to all grains.

      Please do not interpret this message as attacking of your person or character. I really like the work you do and firmly believe you have helped many people shed the ridiculous, politically-correct food dogma that is harming many people’s health in this country (and elsewhere). Though you do not know me, understand my tone here is meant to be polite and non-confrontational. As a forager, and one who studies indigenous human diets, I consume a large amount of wild food (far more diverse than most people’s diet). Practicing this skill really opens one’s eyes to how modern diets are artificial in many ways. My goal is to bring some of the real-world experience from wild landscapes to the nutritional discussions that are occurring. Best wishes."

      Arthur Haines


      "Animal remains suggest they ate a diet of wild boar, red deer, calves, lambs and freshwater fish such as pike. The charred remains of porridge type foods, emmer wheat and barley grains have been found preserved in amazing detail, sometimes still inside the bowls they were served in."

  7. Eh! I did not see that blog post! Yeah, I eat spelt grains quite regularly. Sometimes barley but not as often as spelt. I even find some organic parboiled spelt in supermarkets around here. It's a nice alternative to rice. I sometimes add chunks of steamed cooked potatoes and soya sauce. sesame seeds, a little balsamico and herbs.