Wheat is North America’s favorite grain, but many people on the continent have never tasted natural wheat -- wheat berries, or whole, unprocessed wheat kernels. They are soft and chewy, once cooked. When cooked up in milk, wheat berries make a hearty, very nutritious whole-grain breakfast porridge. They also add very tasty extra nutrition when blended into muffins, salads, soups and stews. Wheat berries from soft wheat varieties, normally used in producing pastry flour rather than bread flour, can cook more quickly than hard wheat types. The kernels split and get mushy when overcooked, so check early for doneness.
Place wheat berries in the colander. Rinse the wheat under running water, stirring occasionally, until the water runs clear.
Cover wheat berries in water, with at least 2 inches of water covering the kernels. Soak them overnight -- at least 8 hours -- to soften berries.
Bring 2 1/2 cups to 3 cups of water to boil for every 1 cup of soft wheat berries. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, if desired, to prevent boiling over. Add wheat berries and stir until the water boils again.
Reduce the heat and simmer soft wheat berries for 25 minutes to 50 minutes, until the kernels are tender.
Remove the cooked wheat berries from the heat and drain off the extra liquid. Fluff the kernels with a fork, to separate the grains.
Refrigerate cooked wheat berries safely for several days. Use them as-is in salads, side dishes and quick breads. They may need to cook longer -- in milk -- for breakfast porridge.
Intensify the nutty flavor of wheat berries by toasting them in a medium-hot skillet for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
If you can’t pre-soak wheat berry kernels, cooking time will be longer -- at least 50 to 90 minutes.
To add raw wheat berries to soups and stews, add extra water to the recipe -- wheat kernels will double in size -- and also add at least 45 minutes of extra cooking time.