There is much confusion and disagreement about what exactly is farro. Many authors and journalists refer to it as emmer, spelt and einkorn, but throughout Italy the grain is simply farro. Farro is an unhybridized ancestor of modern wheat. Regional differences abound and this may explain the confusion about the name.
In Italy today farro is cultivated in a very small area around the foothills of both sides of the central Apennines, mainly in Tuscany, Umbria, Marche and Abruzzo. Farro thrives on stony or rocky well-drained hillsides about 1,000 feet above sea level. Farro is planted in October and harvested in June and survives in poor conditions, without the use of either fertilizers or pesticides.
The nutritional virtues of farro have long been revered in Italy. Farro is rich in fiber, magnesium and vitamins A, B, C and E. Protein content is also high and when combined with legumes, it forms a complete protein source. The starch it contains is very similar to that of rice and is very low in gluten, making it easily digestible even to some gluten-sensitive people.
The versatility of the grain makes it quite appealing as a substitute for rice, as well as for serving it in cold or hot dishes. Zuppa di farro (farro soup), farrotto (farro cooked as risotto) panzanella di farro (farro salad) are some of the typical ways you will find farro featured in most Italian restaurants today. This hearty, chewy grain is wonderful as an accompaniment to mushrooms, wild game, sausage, and as part of any stuffing for turkey or even tomatoes. Farro can also be boiled and kept in a well-sealed container in the fridge so it can be then used in soup or simply sautéd with olive oil and garlic for a perfect side dish. Farro is a great grain to play with in the kitchen and be creative as possible.
Producer: Rustichella d’Abruzzo
Recipe: Mediterranean Grain Salad