When you think of farro, Pharaohs might follow shortly behind. Around 10,000 years ago this ancient wheat grain made its first appearance in the Egyptian era near the Fertile Crescent, now Italy. It was found in many tombs of Egyptian kings as a nutritious source of food for the afterlife and nourished many Egyptians during that time.
Although the Egyptians may have discovered farro, it migrated into the Romans’ diet and was primarily used to feed the Roman Legions until the Roman Empire collapsed in 476 AD. From there, farro lost popularity until the French helped its revival by incorporating it into meals, often soups.
There are three different types of farro: spelt, emmer and einkorn, with emmer being the most common in the US. Spelt is the more common version grown in southern Germany dating back to 4000 BC and einkorn is likely to be the first type of wheat cultivated by humans.
Emmer is packaged in three different states depending on the pearling process, which removes the grain’s outer layer. Pearled farro is the most common form of emmer, where its outer layer of bran is removed. It contains less fiber and nutrients with this process, but cooks much faster. Whole grain farro is its unprocessed state, meaning it contains an intact bran and germ. These are the parts of a grain responsible for providing nutrients, protein and fiber. With texture similar to rice, half a cup contains as much as 8 grams of fiber and protein, but requires an overnight soaking before cooking. Semi-pearled farro is in the middle. It cooks faster than whole-grain, but contains more nutrients than the pearled variety.
In summary, whole grain farro contain the most health benefits compared to the pearled variety. The increase in protein and fiber keeps you feeling fuller longer compared to refined grains like pearled farro and white rice. Keep in mind farro does contain significant carbs, but it makes up for that by offering a higher amount of calcium and supplying more than ten different vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, zinc and many B vitamins. All three of the farro grains (emmer, einkorn and spelt) are great sources of polyphenols, carotenoids and selenium.
It has been noted in observational studies that long-term consumption of diets rich in plant polyphenols can protect against diseases, including some cancers, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and neurodegenerative diseases. With heart disease being the leading killer in the US, eating whole grain farro might be a great addition to help combat this problem!
When combined with other plant-based foods like legumes, farro offers a complete protein source. This means it provides an adequate amount of the nine essential amino acids important for human health.
Farro is a wonderful grain that can be incorporated into the everyday diet. Here are a few recipes that can help add that chewy texture and nutty taste to your meal.