08/25/2011 12:25 am ET | Updated Oct 24, 2011

Frikeh: Green Wheat Wonder

2011-08-24-FrikehSummerSalad.jpg Frikeh (also spelled "freekeh" and "fereek"), is a Middle-Eastern dish made from immature (green) wheat whose natural development is permanently arrested by a roasting process in the field. In its native region, extending from Egypt to Turkey, the heat used for parching is produced from hot embers of leftover orchard materials burned in the field. On organic farmer Anthony Boutard's farm, a propane blowtorch provides the necessary heat, parching the wheat heads to prevent the remaining sugars in the wheat grains from converting into starch.

For Boutard, the idea to grow the right variety of wheat to produce frikeh came about by chance. While waiting for his number to be called at a favorite German deli, Boutard had ample time to read the labels of packaged products, and came across a package of green wheat. Intrigued enough to investigate further what to do with this grain, he discovered a preparation for parched green wheat to produce frikeh. The market economics were right: frikeh was not being produced in this country, and the process was labor-intensive, with only a three-day window of time to harvest the wheat for parching. Eventually, Boutard settled upon a red wheat variety that is planted in the winter; the heads (containing the small grains) begin coming up in April. By July, skilled workers cut the tops of the wheat and lay them on metal sheets alongside the field. As the wheat becomes properly seared, a single worker moves down to the next pile and continues the searing process until all the heads have been thoroughly roasted. Part of the skill involved with this process comes from knowing when just enough flame has been applied to each batch of wheat heads resting on the metal sheets. Then the heads are put onto a trailer and hauled over to a mechanical thresher that will knock and separate most of the grain from the heads. You can watch this old, traditional method in the video:

The end result is a smokey, nutty grain that works well in soups and summer salads.

Originally posted on Cooking Up a Story.