Roasted wheat berries

August 14, 2013  •  Category:

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.


12 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Belinda @zomppa says:

    That sounds great to have this on hand!

  2. Mark Wisecarver says:

    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. 🙂

    • Joumana says:

      @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.

  3. jason argon says:

    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!’

  4. humble_pie says:

    hello – i’m tearing myself away from the colourful commentary exchange above among Mark, Joumana & Jason to ask How are we Roasting the Wheat Berries?

    jason gives a clue, although his are simmered rather than roasted. I’m sure it’s necessary to soak em first. If i were starting out in my usual profound ignorance, i’d soak em overnight, then roast em, possibly with a teaspoon or 2 of olive oil & a pinch of salt.

    do these things taste good? cracked or coarsely ground, they might be nice in breads or sprinkled on tops of breads or cakes?

    • Joumana says:

      @humble_pie: After tasting jreesh, cracked wheat, in breads and especially flatbreads, (a specialty of the south of the country, also used in iraqi cuisine and Kurdish cuisine, among others), I have adopted it wholeheartedly. It gives a rustic and slightly nutty flavor to breads. I am not sure yet how to roast the wheat berries, need to ask my friend Mylady. She would eat them as a kid for a snack/ roasted by her grandmother 🙂

  5. humble_pie says:

    hmmmn yes … roasting the wheat berries … perhaps another recipe is coming on?

  6. Macro says:

    My father used to roast wheat sometimes whole, sometimes kibbled. The vessel shown in the first article would produce the same results with the low flame under it. We had a slow combustion fuel stove with 4 ovens, an old Aga, the ovens all stayed very stable at their own individual temperature. Wheat was only roasted in the one of the ovens, I am guessing now but probably about 130-140°C. The wheat turned a soft golden brown colour and developed a beautiful nutty flavour. It was used in porridge, bread, dahl, or stolen by me and my brothers just to chew and enjoy. The wheat was always fresh and dry before roasting. Never soaked as suggested above. For many of the subsequent cooking, after roasting, it would be soaked.

  7. Ashish Grover says:

    what’s the link between overeating cheeze and warts?

  8. jason not the other jason says:

    so i just got a small hand wheat mill, and the lady at the checkout talked about how her forgiven exchange student would roast wheat berry’s,, i did not pick her brain on this as i thought it would be easy to find ,, but this is all i can find so far,, the only thing she said was you had to roast them a long time . if no one knows how,, i might just experiment for myself and see what works ???

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