Toasty, nutty goodness, freekeh is fun to chew and packed with complex flavor.
The name Freekeh applies to end result of a very specific process for wheat grain and it also applies to a dish that is called freekeh because it is one of the main ingredients. To make Freekeh, the grain is typically harvested while still immature. Apparently, the quality of the product rests completely on the exact right harvest time. When the leaves begin to yellow and the grain is just starting to harden but still contains a milky, creaminess is the time to begin to start cutting the wheat. Traditionally, it is then left out in the sun for a day and on day two the chaff and stems are set on fire. If the grains are moist enough it keeps them from catching fire in the process. What is left of the plant then gets threshed and rubbed while the grains continue to sun dry. This gives them a roasted quality and also begins to break them down into smaller granules. Once all the chaff and hulls have been removed the grain processing is complete and you have a roasty, toasty flavored grain that can be used in any number of dishes.
Freekeh is a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern and some African dishes. In some countries barley is used instead of wheat but the processing is the same. To make the dish Freekeh, typically involves braising some type of meat with spices, then adding in the freekeh with more spices to finish it off. It can also be made vegetarian style, similar to any other ‘pilaf’. Cook the grains in some liquid, add whatever spices suit you, cook until the grain is soft and the liquid is gone, and viola... you have some the Freeken delicious. (I had to say it).
From a health perspective, Freekeh is wheat. So all the goodness of wheat will be in the grain and because it’s a young grain it will be less “toxic” and easier to digest. Research suggests that green wheat has a nutritional value very close to that of oats. It is high in protein, high in fiber (if the whole grain is used) and high in vitamins and minerals. It contains a specific carbohydrate known to boost immune function and contribute to balanced blood flow, contributing to appropriate clotting and tissue repair for wounds. It is also a significant source of calcium, copper, lithium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sulfur and zinc. The green wheat grains are high in phenols and other phytonutrients that help decrease systemic inflammation and oxidative stress. They also contain other phenols and catechins, including also gallic acid, which is the same compound found in foods like blueberries and green tea, notable in the way it helps protect the liver and provides protection against carcinogenic influence of free radicals.