What Are Wheat Berries?
In my quest to add more whole grains to my family’s diet, I have discovered wheat berries. What is a wheat berry, you ask? Wheat berries are the entire wheat kernels, which includes the bran, the germ and the endosperm. Only the hull has been removed.
Wheat berries, or wheat kernels, are what get ground into wheat flour. There are different types of wheat berries. Hard red wheat kernels are typically ground into all-purpose or bread flour. Soft white wheat kernels are typically ground into cake and pastry flour. Whether it is hard red wheat or soft white wheat, the wheat berry is a true whole grain. While wheat is not new to me or my family, eating it in the form of the entire wheat kernel is.
I was able to purchase my wheat berries in bulk form at The Bulk Barn. What I found was hard red wheat kernels. I haven’t found any at my local grocery stores, but some natural food stores do stock them.
Cooking with Wheat Berries
So, what to do with wheat berries? While they can be eaten plain in the place of rice, I wanted to do something different with mine. I found a recipe for a wheat berry salad on theKitchn which I adapted. I wanted a great winter salad that takes advantage of some of the produce that is available in winter. And so, a wheat berry salad with feta, citrus and pomegranate was the result.
The first time I made the salad, I used a clementine as my orange. It was sweet and juicy, and I would recommend using a sweet orange if available. The second time I used a Cara Cara orange. Any type of orange would work. If I had a blood orange I would try that, as it would also add a bit more colour to the salad. The pomegranate adds a pop of colour to an otherwise beige salad, as well as a burst of juiciness and some crunch.
The cooking time for the wheat berries can vary, depending on the type of wheat berry used and how tender you want them to be. Soaking overnight to soften the kernels is not necessary. I didn’t and they turned out fine. It is however important to rinse the wheat berries before cooking them.
The recipe for the onion vinaigrette makes about one cup, which is four times the amount needed for the salad. It stores well in the fridge for several weeks and can be used on mixed greens salads, or you can make the wheat berry salad again, maybe trying a different type of orange.
Recipe: Wheat Berry Salad with Feta, Citrus and Pomegranate
Recipe adapted from The Kitchn
- ½ cup hard red wheat berries
- ¼ cup (60 mL) onion vinaigrette (recipe below)
- 1 orange
- ½ cup pomegranate arils
- 1/3 cup (1.5 oz, 43 g) feta cheese, cut into small cubes
- small handful of Italian parsley leaves, chopped
- 2 tsp (10 mL) olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- ½ tsp fresh thyme leaves
- ½ cup (125 mL) olive oil
- ¼ cup (60 mL) cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) balsamic vinegar
- 4 tsp (20 mL) sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- Start by cooking the wheat berries. Rinse the wheat berries. Add 1 ½ cup (375 mL) water and the wheat berries to a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the wheat berries are tender, which could be up to 90 minutes, depending on type of wheat berries. Start checking for doneness after 40 minutes. I cooked mine for 70 minutes. When done, drain excess water from wheat berries.
- While wheat berries are cooking, make onion vinaigrette:
- Heat two teaspoons olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and a bit of salt and cook until translucent and soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and cook another one to two minutes.
- If using an immersion blender, transfer onion mixture to a tall sided container. If using a regular blender or food processor, transfer it to the appliance’s container. Add ½ cup olive oil, cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, sugar, a small pinch of salt and a bit of black pepper. Blend until smooth, using an immersion blender, regular blender or food processor. The vinaigrette will keep in fridge for several weeks.
- In a medium bowl, combine the drained wheat berries with ¼ cup onion vinaigrette. Stir to combine. Cut the orange into segments and dice into small pieces. Cut the pomegranate and remove arils. Add the feta cheese, orange pieces, pomegranate arils and Italian parsley. Toss and serve. Leftovers will keep well in the fridge for up to one week.