According to the story, the inhabitants of a Syrian city, fearing they would starve while under siege, harvested their wheat crops early and stored the heads in a pile within the city walls. To salvage what they could when the wheat caught on fire, the people rubbed the charred heads of wheat to discover the green grain had not burned and had taken on an earthy, smoky flavour.
Because the grains are young when harvested, freekeh contains more protein, vitamins and minerals than mature wheat grains. It also has a low glycaemic index and contains up to four times more fibre than brown rice, reports the CSIRO. Freekeh makes a fresh alternative to pasta, rice or potatoes, and its versatility makes it suitable as a side dish or an ingredient in soups, salads, vegie burgers, breakfast cereals and various stuffings.
The grain is a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern and North African recipes, including the well-known Egyptian dish hamam bi’l-farik (pigeon stuffed with green wheat).
In Australia, packaged Greenwheat Freekeh (greenwheatfreekeh.com.au) is available from selected health food shops. If using unpackaged freekeh, rinse it to remove any chaff or stones.
As seen in Feast magazine, October 2011, Issue 2. For more recipes and articles, pick up a copy of this month's Feast magazine or check out our great subscriptions offers here.