So Much Farro, So Little Time

We recently started importing a new couscous made in Italy from farro. Farro is a resurgent yet heirloom grain common in the Mediterranean, favored for its high protein, mineral, and fiber content. It contains 8-19 percent of daily protein and 14% of daily fiber.

Recently, one of our most attentive customers, Gail Murphy of Minglement Market on Vashon Island, Washington, noticed that our producer, Biaitalia, had translated the grain as “spelt” on the package. We hadn’t noticed this British version of what we have long translated as “farro”, thus sparking a new round of controversy on “What is farro”?

Here at RITROVO® we have always imported farro with its latin name, Triticum dicoccum to distinguish it from common wheat, Triticum monococum. And we translated it in English as farro. Nonetheless, some local controversy arose when a couple of Washington farmers began growing related grains. More debate was ignited when our chef friend Seth Caswell opened his restaurant Emmer & Rye, theming his restaurant on locally grown farro/spelt/emmer that fit some of his signature dishes.

We had searched far and wide in Italy and among the few experts on Italian food that we know here in the U.S. for a definitive answer to the botanical and naming question posed by farro. As usual we like to be experts at our own products, particularly since we import two kinds of raw farro :Radici of Tuscany and Tenuta Castello, plus farro-based Primo Pan cookies, and the Biaitalia couscous.

Finally, as if following our : “Think locally, eat globally” motto, our controversy over this grain that we import from Italy was resolved by a local Washington farmer –Rene Weatherstone—who was contacted by Gail Murphy of Minglement Market. He presented us with the full genealogy of farro from its eikhorn origins, confirming our correct association of farro with Triticum dicoccum and spelt with Triticum spelt. Technically, this genealogy calls it emmer farro, thus affirming what Chef Seth believes, but also making us feel comfortable with our RITROVO® naming of this precious grain.

Just for fun we are presenting our “pun-intended” farro “rice” pudding recipe with its many variations, a sweet finale to a complicated food mystery. Enjoy this recipe, especially with the reassurance of how nutritious farro grain is.

Farro “Rice” Pudding

This recipe is a snap to make, creating a very comforting bowl of warm, creamy, lightly sweet farro that can be seasoned in countless ways. It’s made even simpler if you use the pre-cooked farro available from Radici of Tuscany, though you can also start with dry farro from Tenuta Castello or Radici of Tuscany.

1 cup cooked farro
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon Dr Pescia Acacia Honey
1/4 teaspoon Sweet and Salt

To Cook farro: Cook 2 parts water to one part farro either in a large, heavy pot or in a pressure cooker. Tenuta Castello farro takes about 30 minutes to cook conventionally or about 15 minutes in a pressure cooker. You can also soak it for 20 minutes, then cook directly in a rice cooker. Radici of Tuscany IGP farro will cook more quickly by all methods.

Combine the cooked farro, milk, honey, and Sweet and Salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk boils, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring often, until the farro has a creamy consistency, reminiscent of rice pudding or risotto, 12 to 15 minutes.  Makes 2-3 servings

— use half-and-half, coconut milk or soy milk in place of the whole milk
— use other types of honey in place of the acacia, the aromatic sulla a particularly delicious option
— for seasoning you can use cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ground ginger, other warm spices in place of, or in addition to, the Sweet and Salt
— consider adding a tablespoon or two of other ingredients such as chopped candied ginger or orange, raisins or other dried fruit (including Michele Ferrante dried Cilento figs), chopped toasted hazelnuts or almonds.

Don’t forget to try the farro fries at Emmer & Rye, Chef Seth’s signature appetizer.