For those of us who have been diligently stocking up on wheat in our food storage, we may soon be facing the question—what in the world do we do with all of this wheat? Now, obviously, the most common use of this grain is as flour to make a multitude of breads, pastas, and pastries. But let’s be honest, most of us are probably still also buying flour and not taking the time and effort to grind the grain every time we want to make pancakes for breakfast. When the world ends, we are willing to grind and grind away, but until then, we need to find a way to rotate at least some of our wheat stores so that they stay fresh for when they are really needed. Here are five other uses for wheat berries that you may not have considered:
1) Breakfast Cereal
Probably the simplest way to eat wheat berries is the same way you eat oatmeal—as a hot breakfast cereal. Simply boil the wheat berries on low with three parts water to one part wheat berries for about 45 minutes, top with fresh fruit and cream, and viola, breakfast is served.
2) Tabuleh and Other Salads
Tabuleh is a middle eastern dish (great with hummus and feta cheese) that usually uses bulgar wheat or couscous. Last week I decided to try it with wheat berries, and it turned out wonderfully. In fact, I like the extra chewiness and texture that the wheat berries provided. Simply boil the wheat berries just like you would for hot cereal (3-to-1 water-to-wheat ratio), rinse in cold water, then make your tabuleh. This got me thinking about other cold salads that could be made using pre-cooked wheat berries, and there are so many possibilities here. Add them to a 3-bean salad, toss them together with cabbage, raisins, mayo and cardamom for a new twist on cole slaw. They are a quick way to add texture, flavor, and nutrition all in one.
3) Soups and Side Dishes
Making crockpot soup? In addition to that handful of barley or rice, add some wheat berries. Looking for a yummy side dish? How about wheat pilaff, wheat with Parmesan cheese and garlic, or even just wheat with at little butter and salt? Wheat is a versatile grain—try substituting it for any other grain and see what comes out.
4) A Toasty Snack
When I first purchased wheat berries, I thought about those sugar-coated puffed wheat cereals at the grocery store, and wondered if I could make my own (less-sugary) version at home. So, I threw a handful of wheat into our popcorn air-popper to see what would come out. The first answer was nothing, as the kernels did not get big enough to propel themselves out of the popper. But what I did get was toasted (and yes, slightly “popped” split open kernels) wheat berries that proved to be a tasty and very filling snack. Add a little butter and salt like you would popcorn for an even more savory treat. You could also try toasting them in your oven on a cookie sheet. I would imagine this would make a great snack for hiking, or if you need to get away fast since they are small and compact but bring with them all the nutrients and protein of whole wheat.
5) Wheat Pudding and Other Desserts
For every food there is a dessert. You may be familiar with rice pudding, but did you know its peasant companion from eastern Europe – especially as a Christmas treat – was wheat pudding? It will take a little time to make, but may be a yummy hot treat well worth the wait. For something a little quicker, try an ambrosia like cold dessert made from wheat berries, pineapple, and cream cheese, Cool Whip, and vanilla pudding, or the traditional Italian dessert called “cuccia” made of wheat berries served with ricotta cheese and honey.
Wheat has been a staple food for centuries for good reason. It is high in calories, protein, and nutrition. It can be baked, boiled, and ground into flour. It has a mild flavor that allows it to become either a sweet or savory dish. With some experimentation and imagination you may find it has more uses than you ever thought possible!