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What is Emmer Farro?

Emmer, known in Italian as Farro, is an ancient ancestor of modern wheat. It is a toothsome, chewy grain when cooked, with wonderful nutritional benefits and a delicious flavor profile.

Our emmer berries are intact whole grain, which means that they require some time for correct preparation. Keep reading for more information on soaking, cooking, serving, storing, milling, and more!

Cooking with Emmer Berries Pie

Emmer Cooking Times

If you’re familiar with farro from the grocery store, you may have tried using the same techniques for preparing our emmer farro. Most store-bought farro is “pearled” – an imported Farro with the germ and bran removed that results in a quicker cooking time, fewer nutrients and a softer texture.

Our whole grain Farro can seem “chewier” than standard farro, and it is, in fact, a plump chewy berry when properly cooked. Please note that while it makes an excellent substitute for rice in a risotto preparation, it will not have the texture of rice, but a pleasant ‘al dente’ resistance when fully cooked. It will need at least 60 minutes to achieve the right consistency.

Prefer a softer texture? We recommend soaking our grain overnight, then cooking it for 40-50 minutes and draining excess water. Having plenty of water is key for achieving the best texture. Even though it may take a while to cook our emmer farro, the benefit is that it does keep its chewy texture over time. You can cook a big batch on Monday and enjoy the same taste and texture throughout the week.

Yet another beautiful thing about this grain is that you can’t overcook it. It can be simmered for hours and remains a chewy berry, which is why we highly recommend it for soups and other preparations where you might be reheating it frequently.

Preparation Methods

We understand that not everyone has time to sit over a stove stirring their pot of emmer. Luckily, this grain adapts very well to preparation in a rice cooker, slow cooker, instant pot, and even pressure cooker.

We recommend using the brown rice setting on your rice cooker (if it comes with settings, that is!). Slow cooking also works great, but remember Emmer takes a long time to cook, so you’ll need 3-4 hours on a high heat setting in a slow cooker or crockpot to fully cook the grain. For pressure cooking, remember to use plenty of water – at least twice as much water as grain to ensure that the emmer doesn’t burn and fully cooks.

Cooking with Emmer Preparation Methods for Breakfast

What about cracked emmer?

We also sell an emmer product where the grain’s hull has been cracked (but not removed or pearled, so you still get the full nutritional value). Because it is cracked, the cooking time is reduced to 12-15 minutes. You can also soak it overnight to decrease that time even further for use in hot breakfast cereal.

Cracked emmer works as an excellent overnight oats substitute, if you soak it in milk overnight and then heat it up for a few minutes before eating. It is also a much healthier alternative for cream of wheat. Serve it up with shredded coconut, fresh or dried fruit, yogurt, nut butter, and other toppings for a tasty, filling breakfast.

Milling emmer berries

Let’s just get this question out of the way immediately: do not try to grind your Emmer berries in a coffee grinder!

All ancient and modern wheat berries are too hard for a coffee grinder to process and you will just end up ruining your machine and losing both the grain and your freshly brewed cup of coffee! If you need to grind small amounts of Emmer berries into flour at home, you can look into one of our small batch mills as a perfect solution. If that sounds like too much work, you can always order some of our emmer flour. We mill it in small batches to order, so you can always rely on having the freshest flour at your disposal.

Bulk-cooking and storing emmer berries

The good news is that our emmer freezes beautifully after cooking. If you’ve got a big bag of emmer berries and don’t know what to do with them, we always suggest doubling or tripling the recipe on the bag of our bag. After 60 minutes of cooking, drain the excess water, cool the cooked grain completely, and then freeze in bags or containers to be used at your convenience.

Baking and Cooking with Emmer Flour for Muffins

Baking with emmer flour

Our organic, fresh-milled emmer flour is excellent for baking! It features a sweet nutty flavor, especially used within a few weeks of milling. As an ancient form of wheat, Emmer behaves in a similar fashion to the durum whole wheat flours we are already familiar with. We mill our flour very fine so you can use it to make fabulous wide noodle pastas (a tradition in northern regions of Italy), dense breads, cookies, muffins, and crusts.

Spelt: youngest of the bunch.

Let’s learn some facts about Spelt. Scientifically known as Triticum spelta. Among the trio of ancient wheats, it stands as the youngest, born from a cross between emmer and a wild grass. It is the latest addition to the Bluebird product line, meaning you can now acquire all of your ancient grains from our farm.  Not all spelt is created equal.  Bluebird Spelt is a ancient variety that came from the University of North Dakota who has been preserving and maintaining landrace varieties of Spelt.   Bluebird Spelt is harvested in the hull and has to be de-husked before human consumption unlike modernized hulless spelt that has been hybridized for industrial agriculture. Are hulless varieties a true ancient grain?  We will leave that up to you to decide.   Our focus is preserving and maintaining ancient varieties.

Spelt’s nutrient-rich properties enhance baked goods with its high protein and fiber supporting better digestion. Both as a crop and as a food, it nourishes well-being, enriches fertile soils, and promotes a climate-resilient future with its time-tested ancestral genetics.

Spelt on Top of Rag on Table

Spelt vs. Wheat

Unlike common wheat, spelt has not undergone widespread cultivation, resulting in fewer genetic modifications from domestication, with only 42 chromosomes. Like einkorn and emmer, spelt has the outer husk that protects the kernel which is a main differentiator between ancient and modern wheats.

Spelt is an excellent substitute for common whole wheat bread flour, making it the favored ancient grain for yeast and sourdough breads. Additionally, while it is not gluten-free, it contains less gluten and a lower glycemic index than modern wheat, making it an excellent choice for those seeking healthier alternatives to standard wheat products.

Spelt vs. the other Ancient Wheats

Spelt is a slightly more complex grain than Emmer (Triticum dicoccum) with a 42 chromosome count and differentiating flavor profile.  Emmer yields a rich nutty flavor, while spelt is sweet and malty. In terms of appearance, spelt has a distinctive rounded shape, setting it apart from the robust rust-colored kernel of emmer or the petite blonde kernel of Einkorn. It produces a softer, slightly more glutenous dough than the other ancient wheat varieties, which makes it an easier product to bake with, especially when just beginning to explore the ancient grains.

Spelt in a Bowl on Table

Fun Facts about Spelt

  • Cultivated since the Bronze Age (c. 3300 BC)
  • A staple food in Europe for centuries.
  • Known as dinkel in Germany, where it is very popular.
  • Can contain 20%+ Daily Value for protein and several B vitamins.

Quality you can taste.

Einkorn (Triticum Monoccocum) takes us on a culinary journey to the Neolithic age in Eastern Europe, over 17,000 years ago. It is considered to be the mother grain to Emmer. Einka® is Bluebird Grain Farms own brand of whole grain Einkorn wheat products. The trademark guarantees qualities and attributes of our Einkorn wheat products that include:

  • Grown on a 100%  certified organic system, sun cured, and stored by Bluebird Grain Farms
  • Organically processed to order by Bluebird Grain Farms (never shipped out to a 3rd party for processing)
  • Contains a minimum percentage of 16% protein
  • A pure genetic variety of Triticum Monococcum (never blended with other wheat products, hybridized or modified)
  • Grown in USA

With the growing pressures of large industry modifying and hybridizing seed to meet large scale demands, a trademark on our Einkorn products is one way our small farm business can communicate to our customers the standards and qualities that our products maintain. Learn more facts about einkorn!

Einkorn is a nutritional powerhouse.

Similar to Emmer, Einkorn is rich in protein, phosphorus, vitamin B6, potassium, antioxidants and amino acids. Bluebird Einkorn is 100% organic, nutrient dense, sun cured, stored onsite, and freshly milled on our family farm.

Einkorn is especially delicious and versatile in the kitchen.

Petite, soft and slightly sweet with faint vanilla tones, this simple ancient wheat berry offers wonderful possibilities for pilafs, risottos, soups, and salads. Simmer whole berries in stock or water for 25-30 minutes, covered. Then drain and use it for a wonderful side dish.

Bluebird Einkorn flour yields a beautiful light, airy, ancient-grain flour with mild vanilla tones. It is high in protein and packed with essential vitamins and trace minerals. It performs beautifully in pie crusts, biscuits, cookies, cakes, muffins, and other quick bread recipes. It is a “whole grain flour”: the germ and bran have not been removed. Whole grain flours tend to absorb moisture more rapidly than common all purpose flour. This often requires adding more liquid to your recipes. Its low gluten content and chromosome count of 14 make it easy to digest by those suffering from gluten sensitivities.

Facts About Einkorn for Making Bread

Fun Facts about Einkorn

  • Einkorn means ‘one kernel’ in German.
  • Grows a single grain per spikelet on the head of the plant.
  • The last food of Otzi the Iceman, c. 3300 BC.
  • Wild varieties still found in Bulgaria.

Our Emmer is always whole, never pearled.

You may have heard about emmer before and never realized it, so let’s learn some facts about emmer now. Probably when you encountered emmer, it was labeled as farro in your recipe book or on your grocery store shelf. Farro is the Italian name for “ancient grain”. Einkorn, emmer, spelt in chronological order, are the three ancient, hulled wheats and the ancestors to all “modern wheat.” With some exceptions of spelt varieties, these three ancient wheats all need de-hulling.

What separates Bluebird’s emmer products from much of the “farro” you might find in grocery stores is in this de-hulling process. A lot of emmer is “pearled” or semi-pearled in the de-hulling process. Pearling scarifies the outer layer of a whole grain resulting in a quicker cooking time. However, pearling compromises the integrity of the kernels and a pearled or “semi” pearled product is no longer a true whole grain. Bluebird emmer is never pearled and is de-hulled in a fashion that keeps the entire kernel intact. As such, we are able to offer you the full complement of fiber, protein, nutrients and flavor that true whole grain emmer has to offer!

Emmer is Nutritious.

High in protein, trace minerals, and insoluble fiber—20% or more protein but only a trace of gluten. Our emmer farro is a true whole food: it sprouts!

Abundant trace minerals (iron, zinc, magnesium and niacin). Great source of insoluble fiber which feeds the friendly bacteria in your gut. 1 cup of emmer farro has significantly higher nutritional value when compared to rice, barley, pasta. Vegan friendly: just combine with a legume or bean to make a complete protein

Emmer is Delicious!

A little cooking time upfront will save you time and money in the long run. Cook like pasta until al dente and then drain excess water (about 50 minutes); maintains texture and flavor, unlike rice, pasta and barley when overcooked.

Emmer also retains a plump and chewy body and texture for several days after it’s cooked. Storability – cook ahead (larger quantity), store in the fridge, or freeze it for later. Versatility – delicious hot or cold (cook risotto style, create whole grain salads, add to soups).

Man Holding Bread Made from Emmer

Fun Facts about Emmer

  • The first cultivated grain
  • Farmed for over 10,000 years
  • The ancestor of modern wheat
  • A revered grain from Italy to Egypt

Emmer and Farro are the same thing, right? Right! Just be aware of some key differences between our product and the farro you might find in your grocery store.

What is the difference between Emmer & Farro?

Emmer is an ancient wheat, a simple grain with 28 chromosomes, dating back approximately 17,000 years to the beginning of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent Region of Mesopotamia.

Farro is the Italian term for ancient hulled or “husked” grain. Farro can actually refer to all three ancient wheat varieties—Emmer, Einkorn, or Spelt—although on our site, it is usually used interchangeably with the Emmer grain. Most farro sold in grocery stores has been through a ‘pearling’ process that makes it quicker and easier to cook. This is the key difference between most commercial farros and our emmer farro.

Bluebird Emmer (and all the ancient wheats) features a tight outer layer called a husk, a protective, straw-like layer that adheres tightly to the kernel and must be removed before consumption. Most modern wheat has been hybridized for industrialized agriculture so that it is harvest-ready, with a thin and papery hull, easy to remove with little or no threshing required. Commercial varieties of farro still grow with the husk, but before packaging the husks are shaved down or ‘pearled’ so that the grain is easier to cook and process. This process also removes the grain and bran from the emmer berry, meaning that much of its nutritional value and high protein content is lost.

Our emmer berries, on the other hand, are sold intact, which means they retain both the germ and bran – they are, in fact, living seeds. We go through a lengthy process in cleaning and de-hulling Emmer to keep its integrity so that you receive all the benefits of a truly whole, organic grain when you purchase our products.

Emmer vs. Farro Dish in Bowl

What you need to know about Bluebird’s Emmer Farro

The generic name for our Emmer Farro is Triticum dicoccum. It is the oldest of the ancient hulled wheats, dating back about 17,000 years, with spelt (Triticum spelta) and einkorn (Triticum monococcum) being its younger siblings that date back between 11,000 and 7,000 years. While most spelt varieties have been hybridized for bread baking qualities, emmer is sold primarily as a whole grain.

The particular strain of Triticum dicoccum that we use to grow our emmer crops originally came from Rwanda, out of the World Seed Bank over 30 years ago. The same strain is still grown in parts of Africa, Northern Italy, Turkey, and Germany for its high protein, fiber, and trace minerals.