Back in the summer of 2007 we puzzled over our first ever share of Wheat Berries. Grown as an experiment by Crooked Sky Farmer Frank Martin, the whole wheat grains that are the mother grain from which pasta, bread, and flour are derived, were unfamiliar to most of us. We mulled through recipes and exchanged ideas and cooking tips and many of us came to love the hearty, nutlike flavor and pleasantly chewy texture of the cooked wheat berries. We enjoyed getting the wheat berries in our shares for several years, until a combination of factors made it too difficult for Frank to continue grow the crop. Now, 15 years after they first appeared in our CSA shares, regionally adapted wheat varieties are making a comeback across the country and we wanted to reintroduce our members to the pleasures of this local food. We are excited to be working with Oatman Flats Ranch to source these once-widespread heritage wheats, like White Sonora, for our CSA shares. Oatman Flats Ranch is the largest organic wheat farmer in Arizona and one of the first large-scale Organic Regenerative wheat growers in the United States. They utilize organic and regenerative* farming practices to grow heritage and modern wheat and other crops; each selected to be flavorful, nutrient dense, and suitable for the desert climate.
Since wheat berries are a whole, unprocessed grain, they are a healthy alternative to white rice or pasta. They are relatively high in fiber, iron and protein plus contain a healthy amount of many vitamins and minerals. The Sonoran White wheat berries in our shares are a soft winter wheat, containing less gluten than hard wheat varieties. They have a a pleasant light wheat aroma with a delicate, creamy wheat flavor. With Tucson’s designation as a City of Gastronomy, this variety of wheat has become a bit of a celebrity in our region and can be found in tortillas, bread and beers across the city. Even so, finding recipes online for Sonoran White wheat berries can be tricky. We have a number of our favorite recipes in our archives and you can also try searching for ‘farro’ recipes instead of wheat berries. They are essentially the same thing but the term farro is used more often in cooking blogs, magazines and cookbooks.
*Regenerative agriculture is a conservation and rehabilitation approach to food and farming systems. It focuses on topsoil regeneration, increasing biodiversity, improving the water cycle, enhancing ecosystem services, supporting bio sequestration, increasing resilience to climate change, and strengthening the health and vitality of farm soil.