Wheat berries meet my readers. Readers meet wheat berries.
Now that the introductions are over, let me tell you about this wonderful grain. I have discovered that its chewy texture and nutty flavor to be a perfect substitute for pasta in my cold salads and almost as easy to cook with just a longer cooking time. I have fallen head over heels in love with these little guys, and I am so excited to share one of my new favorite recipes that feature this grain prominently.
Let’s dig in a little about what makes this whole grain so special, aside from the fact it’s the source of our wheat flour. First, one serving (½ cup of cooked wheat berries) contains 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, which is about the same amount of protein and fiber as the now popular quinoa. With that said, the nutritional profile does vary some depending on type of wheat berries you use. For example, Lentz Spelt’s whole grain berries, a locally-grown brand I recently discovered at Rocket Market in Spokane, WA, has 8 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber.
But that’s not it. They are also loaded with vitamins B1 or Thiamin, which helps convert carbohydrates into energy and is good for a healthy brain, nerve cells, and heart function; and B3 or Niacin, which keeps our skin and our nervous and digestive systems healthy (Source).
But where do you find them? As I mentioned above, I found mine at Rocket Market locally, but you can buy them in many varieties in the bulk sections of most health food stores or in mainstream grocery stores that sell healthy bulk items.
There’s of course more to be said, but let them “speak” for themselves as you give them a try in this wonderful recipe!
Wheat Berry and Black Bean Salad
(Adapted from Robin Robertson’s One-Dish Vegan’s “Quinoa and Black Bean Salad” recipe)
• 3 cups of water
• 1 cup of wheat berries*
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 3 scallions, chopped
• 1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
• 1 cup cucumber, seeded and chopped
• 1½ cups of cooked black beans or 1 (15.5-ounce) can of black beans, rinsed and drained
• 2 cups of cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
• ½ cup kalamata olives, chopped
• ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, basil, or cilantro
• ½ cup toasted walnuts, optional
• Romaine lettuce leaves, to plate salad
*You could easily replace wheat berries with quinoa. Just cook 1 cup of quinoa according to its directions and use it instead.
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1-2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice (or a citrus-flavored vinegar), use less if you like a subtler lemon/citrus flavor
• 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 teaspoon agave nectar
• 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
• ⅛ teaspoon dried oregano
• ⅛ teaspoon smoked paprika
• ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Place the water, wheat berries, and ½ teaspoon of salt into a saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer. Cooking time varies depending on the desired texture and the brand you are cooking. Generally, I prefer to cook mine for 45 minutes. Once cooked, remove from heat, drain, and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, place the scallions, carrot, black beans, tomatoes, olives, and parsley. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk all the dressing ingredients together.
Add the wheat berries and the dressing to the large bowl and mix well. Add the walnuts, if using. Also adjust the seasonings if needed.
Place desired amount on a plate of romaine lettuce, and serve.