Posted by: lornasass | February 10, 2009

FRIKA (aka GREEN SPELT AND GRUENKERN)

When I was on Martha Stewart radio a few weeks ago, chatting away with my old pal Sandy Gluck, editor of Everyday Food, a woman called in asking what to do with frika.  I almost fell off the chair.

victoria-july-2007-vacation-313Frika is a pretty esoteric grain in these parts although it’s widely known in the Middle East and in Germany, where it’s called gruenkern.

When I told him about this incident, my Sweetie, who is as knowledgeable about the products in Trader Joe’s as the men who shelve them, reminded me that he’d brought me a ready-to-eat vacuum-sealed packet of TJ’s green spelt a while back.  I must have put that packet in a very safe place because I can’t find it, but I imagine it’s that very TJ packet that provoked the radio query.

Frika (variously transliterated from Arabic as faraykee and freka) is unripened (therefore green) spelt that is harvested in its immature state by burning away the leaves, stems, and chaff to leave the kernels with a delightfully mild, smoky flavor–a little reminiscent of Lapsang souchong tea.

There are numerous theories about the origin of this odd procedure.  One is that the method was discovered by accident when a field of immature spelt caught fire and the roasted grains were found to be delicious.  Another is that to save the crop from being destroyed by hail, it was harvested early and quickly dried over an open fire for storage.

I had a surprising adventure with frika when I was in Portland a few summers ago.  The Sweetie and I went to Higgins for lunch since I’d heard Chef Greg Higgins was committed to using regional, seasonal produce.  I introduced myself as the author of WHOLE GRAINS EVERY DAY, EVERY WAY and before I had the napkin on my lap, a grain salad was placed before me.  I tasted it, looked up toward the kitchen, and caught the sous-chef’s eye in shocked delight.  What was frika doing in Portland?

victoria-july-2007-vacation-3311Turns out that a farmer named Anthony Boutard and his wife Carol grow spelt on Ayers Creek Farm in nearby Gaston, Oregon.  They produce a limited supply of frika every year to sell at the local farmer’s market and to select area restaurants–which is how it ended up on my plate at Higgins.

The Sweetie and I went to meet the Boutards and had an inspection of the very fields where the frika was grown and burned, but alas, at that time there was no frika left.  Typical of the generosity of farmers, not only did the Boutards serve us a delicious lunch of oven-baked polenta cooked from their own corn, but sent me a large package of frika in the fall.  I am feasting on it in soups, stews, and salads.  Unfortunately, the Boutards don’t have enough frika to sell to my readers, but it is often available from www.kalustyans.com or www.germandeli.com.

victoria-july-2007-vacation-3422Frika cooks quickly–in about 20 minutes–and is well worth trying.

PHOTOS COPYRIGHT MICHAEL STEINMAN, 2009

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Responses

  1. This post put me in mind of my friend from Lebanon, Rami Zurayk, a founder of Slow Food Lebanon and an agriculture professor at the American U of Beirut. Although I grew up visiting my father’s family in a village in South Lebanon, I had never heard of freekeh until Rami asked me about it. He loves it.

    He and his graduate students researched 25 traditional Lebanese food items last year, touring Lebanon, photographing and gathering info from small farmers, and also surveying the published scholarly literature. They produced a beautiful full-color paperback of their findings which is published in English out of Beirut.

    Here’s the blog page that discusses freekeh (spelling in English is variable)

    http://www.slowfoodbeirut.org/index_inv.php?c=inv3

    I have a copy of the book, which is wonderful, and can get you one if you are interested.

  2. Dear All !

    I enjoyed this article very much, mostly because this wonderful grain so UN- known outside the Middle Eat.
    I live in the city of Akko (Acre) in Israel. Our city is the capital of the Western Galilee region, known for its fields, crops and spices. Because of my love for food I started to export small quantities of it abroad.
    Among many other items, I also export local, ORIGINAL, organic and Kosher Frika. I also sell my items on eBay, where it is easy to reach for everyone. The Frika is located here: http://cgi.ebay.com/Frike-Frika-Freki-Wheat-Organic-Grains-Galilee_W0QQitemZ320413312605QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item4a9a1f265d&_trksid=p4634.c0.m14.l1262#ht_1075wt_939

    All the best,

    Tal.

    Akko, Israel.

  3. Does anybody know then nutritional values of Frika? Like, is it a low glycemic food? Esquiring minds…

  4. salut jec suis frouk je recherche une formation poutr etude une

  5. Where do a person get frika from here in durban?

    • Have you tried googling for a local source? Or ask a local healthfood store to order it? Good luck finding this delicious grain.

    • Hi. I can ship you some directly from Israel. oldakkoshuk(at)gmail(dot)com

      Tal.

      • Wow, I’m glad to hear you are growing spelt for frika in Israel.

      • I’ve just discovered your postings here, more than a year later. I first learned of Frikah today, and thought it sounded like gruenkern, even though I couldn’t see why Germany and the middle east would be ending up withthe same product. I am excited to see I was cirrect in assuming they’re related, if not the same!
        I”d love to buy the kosher, Israeli version you’re making. It’s no longer on the E-Bay conection you gave. Please tell me how to buy from you, here in the New York area. Thanks, looking forward to Freka risottos and salads, and gruenkern-style soups.
        Regene Prager
        pragerreg@gmail.com

    • I’m also looking in Durban. Did you find it eventually? If so, where? Peter.

      • I love this community spirit! Hope you can find it either at home or via the internet.

  6. I’m looking for recipes, but since many people here seem to be looking to source “Frike,” as it is packaged by al wadi al akhdar products, I got mine off the shelf at Sahadi’s on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, NY

  7. I am German living in the US and we eat frika in many foods in Germany also in baked items, it’s called “Gruenkern” there which kind of translates to green grain/ spelt. You can get it in any International Market or best in a Middle Eastern run store and it’s not difficult to find any more. It’s great as salad, or to replace rice, or in any kind of “risotto-style” dish. You can cook it in advance freeze it and get it out whenever you need it. Enjoy! :)


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