Freekeh - Everything you need to know about the green durum wheat.
While you may have only recently heard of freekeh, or even never heard of it, the green grain is legendary. Freekeh is not only incredibly delicious, healthy and versatile - it also has several origin stories. But more on that later.
What is Freekeh?
Freekeh is basically durum wheat that is harvested unripe, i.e. still green. Subsequent processing is the key here, not only to preserve the grain but also to give it its special flavour.
There are several funny spellings for Freekeh. For example, the grain also has names like Freek, Firik, Frique (you can play this endlessly...).
So: Freekeh = unripe (green) harvested durum wheat!
What is special about Freekeh?
When you harvest wheat green, i.e. unripe, it still contains a lot of liquid and is somewhat soft. If you were to store the wheat directly like this, the moisture would cause mould to form and the good stuff would go bad faster than you can say falafel. So the grain has to be dried first. And that happens in several stages and with a lot of fire. Freekeh is roasted over an open fire and thus dried.
But before the fire treatment, the durum wheat is first allowed to chill in the sun. This removes the first moisture and the chaff separates easily from the wheat. Then the wheat is given a good tinder. The laid-out wheat is then set alight very carefully and in a controlled manner. Since the wheat still contains some moisture, it does not burn. However, it had already been slightly loosened from the chaff by the bath in the sun. The fire now burns the loosened chaff and dries the wheat again without it burning.
When the fire treatment is through, the durum wheat is rubbed again by hand to get rid of the last traces of chaff. This is where Freekeh gets its name. Freekeh means "rub" in Arabic.
And what have we gained thanks to this procedure? In terms of taste, Freekeh gets its characteristic smoky flavour. The green-harvested wheat is preserved (lasts forever!) and the many nutrients are retained.
But how does one come up with such an elaborate and incredibly clever procedure? Here we come to the legends surrounding Freekeh:
Imagine living in the 23rd century BC and harvesting your wheat nice and early (
for whatever reason - it was an attack on the village) and store him in a hut and feel good. "Honey, winter can come. Make a pina colada..." (hardly) But suddenly lightning (or rather a torch) strikes and the whole hut goes up in flames. You think to yourself "OMG!!11!!1", but as you clean up the charred remains of the hut, you discover that the wheat is not charred at all, but smells good and even tastes damn good - better than ever before. "Yaaay! Honey, I've found a gap in the market!"
Yes, it can happen that a good product becomes even better.
A real superfood!
That's right, freekeh is an absolute superfood and similar to green spelt.
So, what is actually in it? Per 100g Freekeh contains (according to Wikipedia)
- 343 kcal
- 14.7 g protein
- 2.6 g fat
- 69 g carbohydrates
- 12.3 g dietary fibre
- 3.3 g minerals
- 4.7 mg iron
- 7 mg calcium
That's pretty neat!
Okay, but how exactly does Freekeh taste now and what are the nutritional values comparable to?
In terms of taste, Freekeh can be compared to a mixture of wholemeal rice and bulgur. It is tender to the bite and therefore has a nice grainy mouthfeel. Freekeh also tastes smoked thanks to the fire procedure. It's really not easy to describe, but this smoky flavour is absolutely amazing and adds a good portion of umami to all dishes with Freekeh.
Wholemeal rice is considered super healthy. But how does it compare to freekeh in terms of content? Freekeh is almost 5-6 times as high in protein (14.7 to 2.6) and has almost 6-7 times as much fibre (12.3 to 1.8) as wholemeal rice.
Freekeh also has a low glycaemic index (43)! This means that the good grain does not cause your blood sugar level to skyrocket as much as other carbohydrate-rich foods. This makes green wheat especially suitable for diabetics.
What do you do with it?
Unbelievably much! Freekeh is not only super healthy, but also incredibly delicious and versatile! You can make delicious salads, similar to a bulgur salad. The salad then gets a deliciously light smoky flavour. You can also serve freekeh like rice or couscous as a side dish to stews, braised dishes, prepare it as a pilaf or make a kind of freekeh "risotto".
But little by little, I will of course publish some recipe ideas here on the blog. In the meantime, you can try the super delicious freekeh salad with za'atar.
The preparation is super easy! Before you cook it, you should first wash the green wheat properly. Afterwards, you can simply boil Freekeh briefly with twice the amount of water/broth and a little salt if necessary and then cook it for about 15 minutes on a low heat with the lid closed. That's it. Afterwards, you can use Freekeh for a variety of dishes.
After washing, you can also sauté the superfood directly with other ingredients (vegetables, meat, etc.) and then finish cooking with the necessary amount of water or broth.
Please note that there are different grain sizes, which have a correspondingly different cooking time. The coarser the grain, the longer the cooking time.
I hope I've been able to whet your appetite to try freekeh for yourself. You probably won't find it in every supermarket, so go to the Turkish supermarket or Orient Market. You'll definitely find it there. And if you don't find anything there either, then have a look online. Here's my recommendation: Buy Freekeh online*.
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