Wheat berries…a not so unusual grain

This week’s Chow shares include a brand new item — wheat berries from Ramona Farms.  We’re excited about this, and hope you enjoy some new adventures in the kitchen!  Many thanks to ASU nutrition student Sarah Jones for her research and writing about them.  We hope this information launches you on some new adventures in your kitchen!

Unless you have Celiac Disease or are gluten intolerant, you likely consume wheat (Triticum aestivum) in some form on a regular basis.  Whether it is bread, bagels, English muffins, cereal, tortillas, crackers, cookies, etc., it is a common staple in a typical North American diet.  Wheat is thought to have been first cultivated in the Nile region and is the world’s third most common cereal crop, second to rice, with corn being the most common.  Unlike other grains, wheat has a relatively high amount of gluten, the protein that provides the elasticity necessary for breadmaking and produces the “highest-quality bread and baking flours.” 

What you may not be so familiar with is the term “wheat berry,” which is the entire unprocessed wheat kernel (minus the hull) and is comprised of 100% of the original kernel.  In order for it to be classified as a TRUE whole grain, all of the bran, germ and endosperm must be present.

The bran, which is the rough covering, has very little nutritional value, but is packed full of insoluble fiber (insoluble fiber acts as a sponge as it moves through the digestive system).  The germ is the main concentrated source of vitamins (particularly vitamin E and some B vitamins), minerals and protein.  It should be noted that the germ contains polyunsaturated fat, therefore unless it has been “defatted”, should be refrigerated or it will quickly become rancid.  The endosperm is full of starch, protein, niacin (vitamin B1) and iron.  According to the World’s Healthiest Foods website, one cup of cooked wheat berries has 151 calories, 5.6 g of protein, 34 g of carbohydrates and 8 g of total fiber.  There are also other types of whole grain berries related to wheat.  I have experimented with barley, spelt, kamut (kah-MOOT) and rye berries.  Kamut, in particular, is two to three times the size of most wheat, is high in protein and has a delicious nutty flavor… but that is for another blog! 

Perhaps now you are saying, “I want to incorporate wheat berries into my diet, but I don’t know what the heck I do with them?!”  This chewy, dense and nutty grain can be used in salads, as a breakfast cereal, pilaf (in place of rice), in chili, as a base for pudding, in risotto, etc. – wheat berries are incredibly versatile!  This week you were lucky enough to receive Ramona Farms durum wheat berries in your Chow Locally box, so be sure to check out some of the links to recipes that use the ingredients in your box!  On a final note, I found this quote by Julia Child that sums up how I view cooking and with Chow Locally providing the tools to make it happen, you cannot help but be inspired to get in the kitchen and start creating, “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.”  I could not have said it better myself! 

BASIC COOKING INSTRUCTIONS:

Rinse and boil (with or without a bit of salt) for about an hour; drain and rinse once more (some instructions I found said to soak overnight, but some others said they do not need to be soaked overnight).  If they are too chewy for you after one hour of cooking, add more water (if needed) and just cook them a bit longer!  Here is a basic recipe for cooking wheat berries from Eating Well magazine.

RECIPE INSPIRATION:

Wheat Berry Salad with Raisins, Beets and Citrus Vinaigrette

Ingredients used from Chow Locally box: wheat berries, beets, spring onions and carrots.  This salad would also be a great over Maya’s Farm magenta Batavian head lettuce and/or the Agritopia Farm spring salad mix.

Roasted Root Vegetable and Wheat Berry Salad

Ingredients used from Chow Locally box: wheat berries, turnips and carrots (possible recipe additions from the box include: chopped red Russian kale and spring onions).  This salad would also be a great over Maya’s Farm magenta Batavian head lettuce and/or the Agritopia Farm spring salad mix.

Wheat Berry Black Bean Chili

Ingredients used from Chow Locally box: wheat berries (possible recipe additions from the box include: chopped red Russian kale, carrots, turnips and top the chili with spring onions).  Pair this with a green salad drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and S/P to taste.

Creamy Orange Spiked Wheat Berry Pudding

“An intensely vanilla and orange flavored pudding made with chewy wheat berries and spiked with rum.”  Citrus is still in season and this would be a perfect spring dessert!

References:

  1. Herbst, Sharon. Food lover’s companion. Third Edition. Hauppauge, NY:Barron’s. 2001, 667-668. Print.
  2. Brown, Amy. Understanding food principles & preparation. Fourth edition. Belmont, CA:Wadsworth. 2011, 350. Print.
  3. “Wheat: in-depth nutrient analysis.” The world’s healthiest foods. 2012. The george mateljan foundation, Web. April 5, 2012. <http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrientprofile&dbid=133>.

 Pictures

  1. http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d3/Wheatberries.jpg/220px-Wheatberries.jpg&imgrefurl=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheatberry&h=165&w=220&sz=22&tbnid=wAGeuG5tYXRQoM:&tbnh=86&tbnw=115&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dwheat%2Bberry%2Bpicture%26tbm%3Disch%26tbo%3Du&zoom=1&q=wheat+berry+picture&docid=PtUxGp8ZBMaVEM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=UyF_T9urDaTW2gX16JXuBg&ved=0CE4Q9QEwCg&dur=1794.
  2. http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/definition-of-whole-grains

The Chow Share

Building the business of Chow Locally has been an exciting adventure for our team.  We’ve worked hard to create something that not only made sense as a business, but truly served the health and nutrition needs of you and your community.   And, we hoped our business would point us in the direction of changing the world by improving the food system.

We’re excited now to introduce an offering we think takes us and you one step closer to that goal.  The Chow Share is a subscription program that allows you to get a weekly box filled with the best local foods seasonally available, chef-prepared recipes, nutrition information, and of course our guarantee that all foods were produced in ethical and sustainable ways.  We’ve tried to take everything people truly care about when it comes to food and put it in one box. 

With the Chow Share, you don’t have to worry about whether the food was produced in the right way or not.  We make sure for you.  You don’t have to worry about figuring out what local vegetables are available and how to prepare them.  We give you that information.  And, you don’t have to worry about how to fit these foods into a healthy diet.  We give you that information as well.

So, if you’ve been looking for a way to make health and sustainable living more convenient through food, the Chow Share is for you.  Check out our site to learn more.

We won, we’re honored, and we’re hard at work!

We want to thank everyone who supported Chow Locally the past few weeks in the National Bank of Arizona’s Next Great Business contest!  Because of you, we won the competition!!!!

We plan to use the award ($10,000) to help launch our newest endeavor: a city-wide CSA box program.  If you aren’t familiar with CSAs, they are programs in which customers can sign up for multiple weeks of produce boxes.  Usually, these boxes come from single farms and they are a great way to add healthy foods to your diet while supporting local farmers.  Our program will take advantage of the great relationships we have with multiple local farms and ranches, and we’ll build boxes that include the best of what the valley, not just one farmer, has to offer!  And, we’ll make sure boxes are designed to support meal creation and healthy eating.

To that end, we’ve partnered with dietitians and other experts to help us design the perfect CSA box.  We’ll include recipes, nutrition breakdowns, and cooking videos to help you make the most of what you get.  And no worries…you’ll be able to customize your box by including add-ons with all the great products we’ll continue to carry in our online store!!

When the new year rolls around, look for this great product on our site.  In the meantime, if you want to help coordinate a box drop-off for your workplace, let us know!!  We can set up delivery right to your business’s door, at the end of the workday to make it convenient and save you a grocery shopping trip!  And, if you help us coordinate a multi-customer drop-off at your business, we’ll offer you a free CSA box!!  Email us for more details.

Once again, thanks to all of you who see such value in supporting local farmers, eating healthy local foods, and imbuing your food with ethics!  And thanks to the National Bank of Arizona for supporting Arizona local businesses!

Your Chow Locally Team.

Chow Locally: We’re a Food Hub! (part 1)

As we’ve been building the business of Chow Locally, we’ve wondered a bit about how to characterize what we do.  We often tell people that we are an online farmers’ market because we offer lots of local foods for purchase through our website.  Of course, we hope to be much more than that because what we really care about is supporting local farmers, supporting local food systems, and helping everyone eat in a healthier way.  So, we constantly explore new angles on how we can make all of that happen, including offering a new city-wide CSA (community supported agriculture) program through corporate partnerships (more on that in the very near future), helping farmers deliver their goods to restaurants, and continuing to do what we do best: letting people buy exactly what they want from as many local farmers and ranchers as possible through our Chow Locally website.

Turns out there’s a name for what we are: Food Hub.  Chow Locally is in fact a food hub, a business that aggregates and distributes locally and regionally grown foods.  It’s a new business model for local foods, and one that holds a lot of promise.  You can learn more about food hubs here

USDA is paying attention to the growth of businesses like us, and in fact you can track down the presentation to the right by googling ‘USDA Food Hub’ to see what they’ve been up to.  Jim Barham at USDA is leading the way on this effort, and with this national recognition, it’ll be exciting to see where the food hub movement (and we) might go!