Against the Grain: Wheatberries

I didn’t realize what I was signing up for when I picked up some wheatberries. But something about the smugness of the grain vendor at the Temescal Farmer’s Market should have tipped me off. Maybe he was bitter because his stand wasn’t as popular as Prather Ranch or Happy Boy farms, or maybe he was bitter because he had to explain his pricing over and over to each potential customer, or maybe, just maybe he was bitter because he subsists on a diet of whole grains, wheatberries being one of them.

Nevertheless, I took a 2 lb bag to add to my fun purchases (goat feta! Donut peaches! Pluots!) and brought them back home. I put them in the pantry, half-convinced that’s where they were going to stay until I move someday.

But once Sunday dinner decision-time came along and I found myself considering pasta, I knew I’d have to face my own challenge. One new grain a week. So I got to prepping.

Sources conflicted one another on simple prep. Some said they needed a 24 hour soak, some said boil for an hour, my mom said even that was too long. So I decided to follow Alice Water’s advice, and put them in to simmer, then check on them every 20.
About 50 minutes later, the hard berries had softened into something toothy yet palatable. Nutty, earthy and brown. And bland as fuck.

So I turned to my instincts. Started sautéing some onion and garlic in olive oil. Salted, but then saw it would end up not looking too interesting. Threw in some zucchini for color and summery flavor, and then tossed it all together. Not bad looking. But still looking discouragingly like health food.

The goat feta! Genius. Something to brighten it up a bit and adding another element. And it worked. The supple give of the zucchini balanced the starchy berries, the tang of the cheese matched their earthiness. It all worked well. I even brought some the next day for work.

But still, even after using up a full 2-3 cups of cooked wheatberries, I still had a cup or two to deal with. There they were, cold and unfeeling in my fridge. Guilt fuel. They were cooked and waiting and destined to be Tuesday lunch. But what to do with them cold? My CSA had saddled me with a whole lot of green beans, so I got to steaming some of those, put together a simple dressing of lemon juice and olive oil, and crumbled some more goat cheese for flavor. Because god knows, these little guys would need flavor.

Come lunchtime, with tempting offers of walks to the deli for Tuna Melts or Chicken Sandwiches, I stood firm and mixed up my lunch. Berries and beans met dressing and cheese.

I’m no stranger to failure, and while I wouldn’t call what I threw together an out-and-out disaster, it wouldn’t be something I would make again. It tasted just like what I feared whole grains would taste like- healthy. Good-for-you. And not in a fun way. Like, I’m on a low-sodium diet, I need to eat this food or they’re going to start amputating limbs kind of way. Gary would love it.

I’m not totally giving up on wheatberries. I think the next batch might find their way into baked goods, once I’m ready to venture there. But for right now, I’m glad to move on to another grain. Next up? Quinoa.

1 comment:

rebecca said...

Two pounds? Really? Wow--that's ambitious. I think I might have stuck with a measly amount, like 5 ounces.