It’s a Freekeh Friday

Freekeh WholegrainI’m back again talking about freekeh.  I know I just wrote about this ancient grain — a unique roasted green wheat that’s native of the Middle East.  But I just had to tell you more.

Since my original post last week, I’ve been in touch with the Australian company Greenwheat Freekeh because I had so many unanswered questions about freekeh — which was an unknown grain that has suddenly taken the country by storm. 

As I wrote earlier, freekeh is emerging as a major trend — it’s showing up on the menus of trendy New York hot spots, praised by celeb-chef Jamie Oliver as his favorite new superfood, and is now available at Trader Joe’s (certainly one indication that this grain is going mainstream).

Indeed, freekeh  may be the next quinoa. which I think currently owns the top spot among the ancient grains.  In my previous post, I was baffled by the claim that freekeh is gluten-free.  How could this be?  Freekeh is wheat — and the protein content of freekeh is even higher than what you’ll find in mature grains of wheat.  Gluten is the protein in wheat.  What gives?

I struck up an email correspondence with the kind folks at Greenwheat Freekeh — which turns out to be the largest global distributors of freekeh. In fact, they say they’re the only company in the world to develop the necessary technology to harvest the soft green wheat using a proprietary modern factory.    This Australian company is also investing in a ton of research on the grain.

It turns out that there may be something to the gluten-free claim.  The company won’t go as far to say that freekeh is void of gluten (or safe for celiacs), but there’s something unique about the immaturity of the wheat when it’s harvested.  The roasting also seems to “denature” the gluten, the company’s managing director Toni Lufti told me.

“Freekeh is not gluten free.  However, because freekeh is harvested early and is subjected to a high temperature burning process, the gluten in the grain is ‘denatured.’  Some research in the Ukraine (not yet published) makes the claim that freekeh is ‘free from normal gluten.’ We are also aware of many people who are allergic to wheat and gluten who have consumed freekeh without either adverse or allergic reaction but this is NOT scientific evidence and Greenwheat Freekeh does not make any such claim….If freekeh is ever proven to be OK for consumption by celiacs, it will be one of the best discoveries ever.”

I find that rather amazing.  Had no idea.  Other research by the company has shown that the early harvesting of the wheat offers several nutritional advantages. (Click here for the  nutritional attributes of freekeh.) 

  • Freekeh retains more protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals compared to traditionally processed wheat.   Freekeh contains four times the fiber content of brown rice.
  • Unlike mature grains, freekeh is rich in lutein and zeaxathin — important phytonutrients for eye health. 
  • The grain also appears to act as a prebiotic, fueling the growth of healthy bacteria in our digestive tract.
  • Additionally, freekeh is considered to have a low glycemic index and is high in “resistant starch,” which is a hot area of research right now.  Some studies indicate that resistant starch (which acts more like a fiber than a carbohydrate) may play a role in weight management. 

And someone who may attest to the weight management benefits of freekeh is Bonnie Matthews, who lost  130 pounds eating Greenwheat Freekeh.  She talked about her journey on the Dr. Oz show, and is now featured on his web site as a “wellness warrior.”  You’ll find some of her freekeh recipes on the site.

Here’s a collection of other freekeh recipes to try:

Freekeh Salad

Freekeh Salad

This young, green grain is not only a nutrient powerhouse, it appears to be truly “green” as well.  Tony Lutfi at Greenwheat Freekeh told me…

“…producing green grains is better for farmers and the environment.  In the case of the farmer, it reduces risk (no need to worry about end of season rain, too much rain or not enough for the grain to finish) and reduces costs (no need to spray chemicals to avoid end of season pests and in some cases no need for fertilizers).  All of this means better margins for the farmer and a healthier environment.”

Tony told me the company is attempting to transfer their production technology to the U.S.  I’m certainly looking forward to that!  For now, it looks like the U.S. distributor for Greenwheat Freekeh is Ceres Organic Harvest, Inc. based in St. Paul.    You can also find varieties of freekeh in natural food stores and Middle Eastern markets.  Although Tony told me that Greenwheat Freekeh is guaranteed to be 100% natural with no additives or preservatives, and processed using very high standards.  He said traditional production (used in the Middle East) may result in grains contaminated with stones — that’s why many of the traditional recipes call for careful rinsing of freekeh. 

I hope you’ll see if you can find freekeh in your area and let me know what you think.  Would love to have you send me your freekeh recipes too!

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