Roasted wheat berries

Wheat berries roasting

Ms. M. Khairallah is a lady in her eighties living alone in her family’s ancestral home in the village of Ghineh in the Lebanese mountains. Her memories of the olden days is crisp and clear; she recounts how back then every family had a small plot and was growing wheat to sustain them throughout the year; wheat was harvested and milled in the village into bulgur and flour and kept in earthenware jars for the year’s supply.

Her grandmother would slip a handful of roasted wheat berries in her pocket to eat for a snack. (shown here roasting in an old-fashioned roaster kanun).

There were also crops of chickpeas and lentils and beans brought in from the Bekaa Valley. A sheep or a goat was slaughtered once a week on Sundays. Cows were kept for dairy needs; the women milked the cows (one cow was usually the norm) and made cheese (labneh, and a fresh cheese called jebneh khadra or farmer’s cheese). She laughed remembering how her sister loved that cheese so much she once ate a dozen pellets in one sitting which gave her warts all over. Life was spent outdoors farming and one cash occupation was raising silk worms who’d feed on mulberry leaves. Their silk (or cocoon) was then sold to French silk manufacturers.

These roasted wheat berries are sold today in some Beirut supermarkets under a Fair Trade label. They make a good snack for a simple mezze with some sliced cucumbers and carrots.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted August 14, 2013 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    That sounds great to have this on hand!

  2. Mark Wisecarver
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    I would so very much love to met her!
    This is something our family did in Beirut also.
    When I’ve got a hard days work ahead I make a very pleasant tea from them in a Mason jar. Just have the roasted berries in a filter bag of any sort, pour cold water over it and leave it for about 30 minutes. Then remove the bag and add a non-sweet honey. Yum!
    I use Sourwood honey in mine and gosh I love it. :)

  3. Joumana
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    @Mark: I’d love for you to meet her too! she has so many stories to tell, her mind sharp as a tack. Have never heard of a tea from them so I am sure you’d exchange ideas too. she always says “I am from peasant stock and we are innately stable folks and understand nature”; she has shown me a few of her tricks. all great. I will share them at some point.

  4. jason argon
    Posted September 16, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    My mother toasts the berries and after having soaked them boils them in a syrup consisting of water honey (you can find honey from anise plants here) cinnamon sticks and coriander.Then the syrup is removed and you have glaceed wheat berries.The best type of grain for this job is the double grain one.As you have mentioned about the old lady in the village,I wish you were here as we celebrated my uncle’s 104th birthday! There were many people over 85 and most of them had escaped during WWII from Greece to the Middle East .A colorful carpet of memories was unwrapped from Alexandretta to Damascus then to Beirut (still they cannot hide their admiration about the groceries ,the pastry shops,the fabrics stores etc) then to Amman and Jerusalem,Suez,Cairo,Alexandria up to the distant Marakech! I told them that I have a communication with you and promissed that they will mobilize their Arabic to send you a message.For the time being they say: “Saida ya hellua!’

  5. Joumana
    Posted September 16, 2013 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    @Jason: Nothing could please me more than connection with these wonderful folks! :)

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