Farro is a hearty ancient grain that was a dietary staple in Ancient Rome as well as for most of the Mediterranean and Middle East. It dates back to 17,000 BC, and was so prevalent in ancient times that it is mentioned repeatedly in the Old Testament. Farro has been found in the tombs of Egyptian kings, is said to have fed the Roman Legions, and it was even used as a form of currency.
With the revival of interest in whole grains, farro's popularity is gaining in the U.S. We are seeing a huge resurgence of interest in “heirloom” grains. Now, even your local grocery store is carrying farro!
It has a nutty flavor and chewy texture, a similar substitute for brown rice. It is incredibly good for our diets because it is packed full of fiber (modern diets are generally too low), protein (more than quinoa or brown rice), antioxidants & polyphenols (both of which are thought to play a role in protecting against heart disease, diabetes, stroke and some cancers), vitamins and minerals (plenty of B3, magnesium and iron).
There are three different types of farro: whole farro is the most nutrient- and fiber-dense, semi-pearled in which part of the bran has been removed, but some fiber is still retained and pearled which means the bran has been fully removed and little fiber remains.
Farro works well in salads (see our delicious farro recipe this week!), soups, risottos a.k.a. "farrottos”, breakfast porridges, in veggie burgers, as a vegetable stuffing, and in pilafs. Fortunately, like many grains, farro acts as a background to any strong flavor!