Everybody knows whole-wheat bread beats white bread, hands-down.
But did you know a slice of bread isn’t the only place to get whole wheat into your diet?
Wheat berries — the whole, unprocessed kernel — can be ground into flour for making bread, or cooked and eaten like rice in pilafs, casseroles and stews.
Whole wheat has long been prized for its fiber, which promotes good digestion. A complex carbohydrate, it’s also helpful in controlling type 2 diabetes. But there’s more: “The good thing about whole-grain wheat is it’s a very good source of phenols,” says Dana Jacobi, author of The Essential Best Foods Cookbook (Rodale).
Phenols help prevent cancer, but they can also give foods a bitter taste. Luckily, The Star’s Wheat Berry, Mushroom and Asparagus Casserole is chewy but not the least bit bitter.
We tested this recipe with hard red spring wheat berries by Bob’s Red Mill.
Whole berries include an oily germ that can go rancid. If possible, give wheat berries the smell test before buying. “They should smell clean and earthy, not funky or bitter,” Jacobi says. To preserve freshness, keep refrigerated or frozen.
Cooking tip: Soaking wheat berries overnight makes cooking quicker. If you don’t have time to let them soak, combine dry wheat berries and 2 cups water; cover and heat to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 2 hours or until berries are tender; drain.