A Beginner’s Guide to Freekeh
Recently while shopping at one of my local CoOps, I was wandering the bulk aisle bin and came across something new… Freekeh. I had no idea what it was, just that it was a grain. It looked interesting though, so I decided to get some and try it out. Of course I had to do some searching online when I got home to get some of the basics… and here’s some of what I discovered.
Like quinoa, freekeh is considered an “ancient grain”, in that it has been around for thousands of years. But where quinoa was big in South America, freekeh seems to have originated in the Middle East areas around the Mediterranean. Also, freekeh seems to be more of a method of preparation than a name for the grain itself. The most common form though, is made from wheat, so you’ll also hear it called “green wheat”, because the wheat is harvested while it’s still green, or not fully developed. Actually, they are more of a yellow color, in this case green refers to it not being ripe yet.
The wheat is then dried in the sun for a bit and then roasted. In ancient times, the piles of wheat were actually lit on fire and the high moisture content of the grain kept them from burning while the chaff and straw would burn away. Now the same thing is done with a roasting process that from what I’ve seen looks similar to how coffee beans are done. After roasting, the wheat undergoes further thrashing and sun-drying to make the flavor, texture, and color uniform.
Like other grains, it cooks up pretty easy. I use a ratio of about 1:2 freekeh to liquid, bring it to a boil then drop to a simmer and cook covered until the water has all been absorbed. It typically takes about 20 to 25 minutes.
Because of the roasting, freekeh has a smokey/nutty sort of flavor to it that I just love. The first batch I made I ate just plain, with a bit of salt and pepper and it was great. Since then I’ve used it in a lot of different ways. I’ve mixed it with ground beef for making sloppy joes and tacos, I’ve added it to stir-fried veges, and have heated it up in a bowl of milk and had it for breakfast in the same way I would use oatmeal. And while I haven’t tried it yet myself, I’m sure it would work great in soups and stews as well.
Since the wheat is harvested before it’s fully mature, the nutrition profile tends to be slightly better in many ways when compared to say normal wheat. It will have a bit more protein and fiber and tend to have a lower glycemic index. And while it seems freekeh could be done to just about any grain, I’ve only ever seen wheat based freekeh out there, so be aware of that. And since it is wheat, this is not gluten-free.
There’s a few folks out there suggesting freekeh will be “the next quinoa”. I suppose they mean it will be the next whole grain to be re-discovered and become popular again. It could take awhile though. I’ve heard that you can find it at Trader Joe’s, but I haven’t seen it at my local one. The only place I have found it is this one CoOp. So yea, it may be hard for you to get your hands on it, but if you do… I really recommend you give it a try.