Posted by: lornasass | March 15, 2009


I’m sorry for the explanation point in the headline, but one of my pet peeves is that the Italian grain “farro” is usually translated into English as “spelt.”  Yes, they are both ancient forms of wheat, but they are different varieties and often have different cooking requirements, causing considerable confusion.

images-21Most of the farro available in America is imported from Italy and is labeled “semi-perlato,”  meaning that some of the bran has been removed.  This imported farro cooks in about 20 minutes.

On the other hand, whole kernels of spelt, like other types of wheat kernels, take about 50 to 60 minutes to be done.   Whole grains always remain a little chewy, so the best way to tell when they are thoroughly cooked is to cut a kernel in half:  it should be one color throughout, with no white dot of uncooked starch in the center.)

whole grain farro (courtesy Bluebird Grain Farms)

whole grain farro (courtesy Bluebird Grain Farms)

In the last few years, the Washington-state-based Bluebird Grain Farms (on my blog roll) has been growing and selling organic whole grain farro, with its bran intact.  I pressure-cooked some the other day, using 2 cups of grain and 6 cups of water.  I cooked it under pressure for 15 minutes and let the pressure come down naturally, and it was done.  (Yield was 5 cups cooked grains.)

I tossed some with some garlicky braised kale and it made a fine combination or flavors and textures.  I froze the rest and look forward to adding it to soups and stir-fries, straight from the freezer.

In addition to their delicious whole grain farro, the folks at Bluebird Farms were kind enough to send me their whole grain farro flour, which I am eager to bake into some muffins or cookies.  I’ll let you know how that goes.  In the meanwhile, you can mail-order some for yourself, along  with whole grain rye and white wheat.



  1. I get such enjoyment seeing your photographs of the outdoor world surrounding New York. I hope that you are saving them for another book! Keep them coming and keep us inspired.

  2. I was just googling to find out how to pressure cook the farro that I have been buying from Bluebird for the last couple of years. What a fabulous surprise to find that you blogged about it just last week! I am very excited to try the 1:3 ration for 15 minutes. I really enjoy their farro, but often have to really plan ahead to find the time to cook it. Just finished off the last plate of an Italian-inspired farro, potato, garbanzo, chard, tomato stew. Mmmm.

    I’ll be back to find out how the flour worked in the baked goods.

    • So glad you found the info you needed! Just wanted to make sure you knew about my cookbooks, Pressure Perfect and Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure, among others. Happy Cooking! Lorna

  3. […]  is NOT Farro! (Read this lovely written article by Lorna Sass) .  Spelt is however a variety of wheat that is native to Europe being used for millenniums as a […]

  4. Hello Lorna!
    Lovely to meet you, as you see, I linked to your article that was so well written and informative, I really didn’t have to do it myself! I think you might enjoy the recipe I created using this lovely little grain.

    Healthy Eating!

    • Wow, what an imaginative use of spelt and such gorgeous photos too. Brava!

  5. What a compliment! Thank You Lorna.

  6. Lorna, I have to take issue with your claim that farro is not spelt. Please see:

    • Thanks for your fascinating research and for letting me know. I imagine it will take a while to get all the labeling sorted out. But whatever they call it, it sure is delicious!

  7. […] you have a pressure cooker, though, you can greatly reduce the time. Lorna Sass pressure cooked two cups of Bluebird farro in six cups of water for just 15 minutes, with natural […]

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