Wheat berries are wheat kernels containing the bran or hard outer covering of the seed, the germ or embryo (what will grow into the plant) and the endosperm or nutrition for the initial growth of the germ. Whole wheat flour is milled wheat berries. Generally, I find at least three different kinds of wheat berries at the grocery store: wheat berries, farro, kamut and spelt.
According to Harold McGee, what distinguishes these wheat species are their origins, preferred growth conditions and their chromosomal ploidy. 90% of the wheat species grown today are hexaploid, meaning they have six sets of chromosomes. These wheat kernels are used for making bread and are what is generally sold in stores as “wheat berries”. Of the remaining 10% of wheat grown, most of it is durum wheat used for making pasta. Durum wheat is tetraploid, meaning it has three sets of chromosomes. Only a small fraction of wheat that is grown consists of what are considered ancient wheat such as farro, kamut and spelt. These can be distinguished by their origins. Farro is the Italian name for emmer wheat. Kamut is the Egyptian word for wheat and it is an ancient relative of durum wheat. Spelt is from central Europe and is closely related to today’s bread wheat.
Later that week….I still had the 3 pepper halves and the rest of the bunch of kale in my fridge and dinner time was fast approaching with no plan in place for what said dinner would be. Since the wheat berry salad was a big hit the first time around (I am not always that lucky), I made it again with the following substitutions/variations:
½ lb. cavatappi pasta substituted for the wheat berries
Parmesan cheese substituted for the feta
3 tbsp. of roasted pine nuts
Of note is that I heard complaints (from those under the age of 10) about the vegetables in the pasta dish, but not in the wheat berry salad. Go figure!