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Risotto With Fresh Herbs And The Ur-Wheat, Einkorn

The Food Guys take a couple of shows to talk about einkorn, the ancient predecessor to modern wheat. Einkorn (rhymes with “fine corn”) means “one grain” in German. As with other ancient grains that have become trendy, the gluten structure of einkorn seems to suit some people better than that of modern bread wheat, Triticum aestivum. Einkorn boosters point out that, compared to bread wheat, it's low in starch and high in protein, and tastes nutty and earthy.

Early farmers domesticated einkorn (Triticum monococcum) over 10,000 years ago - though, as Jon Jackson points out, "It wasn't so much domesticated as used to feed animals." Its cultivation preceded that of farro, spelt, and barley, and the grain persisted until the mid-20th century, when seeds preserved in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault were needed to revive it.

The fact that einkorn was never easy to harvest, process, or bake with may have inspired early farmers to tinker with plant breeding. Their selection work led eventually to our modern form of wheat.

The Food Guys recommend Martha Rose Shulman's recipe for einkorn risotto with fresh herbs. You'll need einkorn, vegetable broth or chicken stock, salt, olive oil, shallots, garlic (optional), dry white wine, fresh marjoram, chives, black pepper, fresh parsley, and grated Parmesan cheese (or walnut oil). Shulman says about the dish: "It has so much depth of flavor that it’s rich and satisfying even without the Parmesan stirred in at the end, which makes this a perfect main dish or side for vegans as well as omnivores." 

(Broadcast: "The Food Guys," 7/24 & 7/28/16 and 7/31 and 8/4/16, 2/4/18 and 2/11/18. Listen weekly on the radio at 11:50 a.m. Sundays and again at 4:54 p.m. Thursdays, or via podcast.)

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