Farro is an ancient grain that is getting some modern-day notoriety. While it might not hold the same allure for Southerners as our beloved grits or Carolina Gold rice, don’t be surprised if you see it cropping up with more regularity on local menus. Thanks to a growing interest among farmers, farro is enjoying a well-deserved resurgence and that means diners stand to reap all the tasty rewards.
Farro (pronounced “far-o” rather than “pharaoh”) has developed a complicated identity since it first sustained the Romans. You could say it has multiple personalities, as “farro” refers to three grains: einkorn, emmer and spelt. Einkorn is often called “farro piccolo;” emmer, “farro medio;” and spelt, “farro grande.”
The way farro is processed determines a few more distinctions. There’s pearled farro, which has had all its bran removed; semi-pearled farro, which has been partially stripped of bran; and whole farro, which comes “fully clothed” and takes much longer to cook.
While emmer has long been the variety most commonly available in the U.S., the somewhat softer einkorn—farro piccolo—is offered by two South Carolina brands that take the complication and guesswork out of cooking the ancient grain. Marsh Hen Mill and Anson Mills both grow the iconic farro piccolo, which Anson Mills says dates back 10,000 years or more. This makes it the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandaddy of all cultivated grains.
When on Edisto Island, stop off at Marsh Hen Mill Market where you’ll find bags of its farro piccolo. It is certified organic, semi-pearled for a faster cooking time and beautifully delivers the delicate, delicious flavor profile that is the hallmark of this grain. And when added to soups and stews, it soaks up the broth but remains al dente—even if you reheat the leftovers the next day.
You can also place an online order from both Marsh Hen Mill and Anson Mills to have all that goodness delivered right to your door. Add it to your soups and casseroles instead of rice or pasta. Farro’s nutty flavor and satisfyingly chewy texture also make it a wonderful base for cold dishes. Mix cooked and cooled farro with fresh veggies and herbs and toss with a lemony vinaigrette for a refreshing, vibrant summer salad.