What is Freekeh?
Freekeh – sometimes spelt ‘frikeh’ or ‘farik’ in Arabic (meaning ‘rubbed’) – is a traditional Middle Eastern grain.
It’s harvested young, whilst the wheat is still green and the seeds are soft. After sun-drying, the wheat is then piled up and set on fire. Whilst the straw and chaf burn off, the young moist seeds remain intact. The wheat is then further dried and rubbed to give its characteristic texture, colour and lovely deep flavour.
Why’s it harvested like that?
Freekeh production dates back to 2300BC, when an Eastern Mediterranean nation was anticipating an attack on their city. Because they were worried about losing their crops and starving, they picked the early green heads of wheat and stored them. When the city came under fire, the green wheat was burnt, then the people discovered that, when rubbed, the grains were still edible and the process contained nutritional benefits. Freekeh is referred to in an early thirteenth-century Baghdad cookbook as ‘farīkiyya’.
A bit of history...
Freekeh originated in the Middle East and is now widely available throughout Europe and the US. Like other similar wheat grains, freekeh is earthy and nutty, but it is its wonderful smokiness (which comes from the harvesting process) which makes this Middle Eastern crop so unique. Chefs are in awe of its texture and depth of flavour.
You can also find wholegrain or cracked varieties of freekeh. Cracking of the grain gives a green bulgur appearance.
So how healthy is it?
Freekeh is considered a ‘supergrain’ by some people, it is a high protein alternative to couscous or white rice and contains many of the same nutrients as farro and quinoa. Its high fibre content (up to four times that of brown rice) and low glycemic index make it a good regulator of blood sugar levels for diabetes sufferers.