Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Wheat- part three

Sometime in early August, I finished picking the seeds out of the wheat heads. My final weight for this crop was 2 pounds 4 ounces. The size of the bed was 4 ft x 8 ft with a 2 ft x 2 ft section in another bed. I planted in late fall 2013 and was finished harvesting in mid June 2014. I watered the bed one time a week after the plants were about 4 inches tall. The chaff has been spread around plants to compost. The wheat stalks were put around trees and eventually mowed to grind them down to mulch size. Every part of the plant has been used.
I have been collecting salad recipes for the wheat berries. This wheat is a mix of different types of wheat because I didn't have just one type in the bag from the store. Unlike red winter wheat, which is what is mostly grown in the USA and made available at the store, this wheat was packaged as FARRO for making grain salads. In theory, it is supposed to be higher in protein but I have no way of knowing if this is true. The grains are larger than the red winter wheat.
When this wheat is cooked, it is soaked first, then boiled. The soaking water turns the color of light tea and has a fragrant grass smell. When it is boiled, it has a light smell but not really distinct. Cooking oatmeal has a definite oatmeal smell. Rice has a definite rice smell. For some reason, I thought this should have a definite wheat smell, but it doesn't. It takes about 40 minutes of boiling to get the grains to soften and become chewy.  More chewy than brown rice. The kernels are large enough to be distinct in the dish so that you can actually feel yourself chewing it. It does not appear to absorb a lot of dressing or juices from other vegetables.
So the next exploration is to find ways of serving this item. There have not been many occasions where wheat berries show up on the menu. Might be that the current Anti-Gluten movement would frown. But there are a few dishes out there.
While I was in Montana, I ate at THREE FORKS restaurant in Columbia Falls. We were staying nearby at a resort and driving daily to Glacier National Park. Evening dinner selections were limited to THREE FORKS and Burgerking or Pizza Hut.  THREE FORKS was surprisingly delicious and inventive. They had a beet and wheat salad that was absolutely delicious. It came with a grilled Trout seasoned lightly and dusted with ground nuts. My husband is not a fan of beets, but this was good to him so I had to come home and make my own rendition of it.
HERE IS A RECIPE- it is not exactly what was served at THREE FORKS, but good enough.

1 cup wheat berries (Farro, or some other wheat, or brown rice if you must)
soak the wheat for about 1 hour, drain and boil in plain water (no salt) for 40 minutes. If using rice, don't cook it until it explodes, just enough to be chewy.
Let it cool a bit.
Cook a large beet (scrubbed but not peeled) in boiling water for 1 hour. Cool, peel and cube into 1/2 inch cubes. Set aside in refrigerator.
The rest of the ingredients:
2 limes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
4-6 chopped green onions
1 cup chopped parsley, no stems
one or two stalks of cooked broccoli- this is a good place to use those stalks instead of the florets.
Cook them until just tender, strip of outer stiff skins and chop the stalks to 1/2 cube size.
You can also use cooked zucchini or squash or celery or green beans. This is the place to add those leftover bits.
Salt and fresh ground pepper

Assemble- place the wheat (rice) in the bottom of a large salad bowl. Add the drained garbanzo beans. Grate the rind of one lime over the beans, save the lime for the juice. layer on the parsley, green onions and other vegetables of choice - NOT THE BEETS.
Mix the olive oil and the juice of both limes. Add salt and pepper (about 1 teaspoon salt and as much pepper as you like). whisk together and pour over vegetables. Toss, toss and then toss some more. Put the tossed veggie/wheat mix in a lovely serving bowl and spread the beets on top. If you toss with the beets, the whole thing will turn pink. Which can be lovely, but that is up to you.

This salad is tart. I like the tart lime taste. I don't add sugar as the beans and beets don't need it. You can reduce the lime juice or add sugar  or sweetener if you choose  when you are mixing the dressing.

There are some very lovely types of beets out there- Orange, Red, Yellow. All of them work fine here. The salad is rather pale and beige until you start adding beets and veggies. Broccoli stems are pale as well. The bright Beet color and the Parsley make the salad very festive. I would probably not use yellow beets here just because I like the bright colors. Another vegetable you can add is blanched chopped Kale.

This salad offers room for experimentation. It lasts for several days in the refrigerator and makes a great lunch by itself.

It might be worth planting wheat again, just for this salad. But it is possible to find wheat berries at the health food store, so I am probably not going to grow my own in the future. But it was fun.

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