Farro, or emmer, was an almost mythical grain for me until a few years ago. In my native region Campania in the South of Italy we don’t grow this cereal any more. I only knew of its existence through my primary school textbooks. The old story is that the Roman legions marched on farro and conquered the world on it. A couple of thousands years ago Farro (triticum dicoccum) was the most widely spread crop in the Mediterranean basin. It was replaced by wheat, which produces a much higher yield, for centuries only surviving in certain secluded areas for local consumption. Production is slowly expanding as farro becomes trendy because of its healthy properties. It is high in fibre and protein and low in calories and fat.
Farro is often confused with its closest relative Spelt (triticum spelta). It can easily be cultivated organically because it does not need fertilisers as it can grow in very poor soil and is resistant to pests and even fungi.
I have used for this recipe farro grown in Garfagnana, an historical area in the province of Lucca.
This summer salad recipe is a cold nourishing dish and not too heavy. Farro is obviously used in winter dishes as well, soups in particular, but it so torrid at the moment that I can’t even think of something like a steaming potage.
For the recipe, I have used Tuscan ‘Olive Nostrali’, “our local olives”. They are quite difficult to stone so I have shaved the soft part with a small knife. It takes a few minutes but it was worth the effort as they are full of flavour with a lovely bitter tang. Equally good are Gaeta’s olives, which are similar. If you cannot find them, get strong flavoured olives.
Mint. I have picked wild mint from the countryside. I cannot define it. It seems to be hybrid of spearmint and peppermint.
Our red onions are rather mild. I put just a couple of thin slices but if you have stronger onions you should reduce the amount unless you like a strong oniony taste but be careful not to overpower the other delicate flavours.
Farro comes as Farro sbramato (milled faro) or farro perlato (pearled Farro), which having had more external fibres removed can be cooked more quickly. For this recipe I have used Farro Perlato as it is more readily available.
Insalata di Farro Estiva - Summer Farro Salad
250 gr. Farro
10 cherry tomatoes
30 olives – stoned
1 stalk celery
Two tablespoons of Extra virgin olive oil
1. Rinse the farro in a colander under fresh running water
2. Put the farro in a saucepan and fill with water 4 times its volume at least
3. Put the saucepan on a stove and bring it to the boil then turn the flame down to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes (unless stated otherwise). Add a teaspoon of salt a few minutes before cooking is completed
4. Drain the Farro and let it cool
5. Finely chop the carrot and the celery. Cut the tomatoes in medium/small pieces
6. Stone the olives and chop them in smaller pieces
7. Thinly slice and chop the onion.
8. Chop the fresh mint.
9. Put the Farro in a bowl or a pot. Break any lumps with a wooden spoon.
10. Now add all the chopped ingredients: carrot, celery, tomatoes, onion, olives and fresh mint
11. Add the olive oil and toss until all the ingredients are perfectly amalgamated.
You may prefer it with more olive oil and more salt. It’s up to you.
This salad needs to repose for a couple of hours so all the flavours can develop.