Farro is a food composed of the grains of certain wheat species. The exact definition is debated. It is sold dried and is prepared by cooking in water until soft, but still crunchy (many recommend first soaking overnight). It may be eaten plain, though it is often used as an ingredient in dishes such as salads and soups.
Farro is an ethnobotanical term derived from Italian Latin for a group of three wheat species: spelt (triticum spelta), emmer (triticum dicoccum), and einkorn (triticum monococcum) which are types of hulled wheat (wheat which cannot be threshed). In Italian cuisine, farro is sometimes (but not always) distinguished as farro grande, farro medio, and farro piccolo, respectively. Confusion is generated by the difficult history in the taxonomy of wheat and the colloquial, regional use of the term for specific wheat species, for example emmer grown in the Garfagnana region of Tuscany is known as farro, and can receive an IGP designation (Indicazione Geografica Protetta), which by law guarantees its geographic origin. Emmer is by far the most common variety grown in Italy, in certain mountain regions of Tuscany and Abruzzo. It is also considered to be of a higher quality for cooking than the other two grains and is sometimes called "true" farro. Farro is also sometimes defined as spelt (dinkel in German), specifically distinguished from both emmer and einkorn.
Regional differences in what is grown locally and eaten as farro, as well as similarities between the three grains, may explain the confusion. Barley and farro may be used interchangeably because of their similar characteristics. Spelt is much more commonly grown in Germany and Switzerland and is eaten and used in much the same way, and might therefore be called farro, as is épeautre (French for spelt) in France (where, like for farro in Italy, there is "petit", "moyen" and "grand" épeautre. Common wheat (Triticum aestivum) may also be prepared and eaten much like farro, in which form it is often referred to as wheatberries.
The emmer variety of farro is often confused with spelt, though it is an entirely different species.
The Italian word farro is derived from the presumed Vulgar Latin word farrum, from Standard Latin far, farris n. : 'a kind of wheat' (as in farina (food)). Far in turn is derived from the Indo-European root *bʰar-es- : 'spelt', which also gave rise to the English word barley, Albanian bar : 'grass', Old Church Slavonic брашьно (brašĭno) : 'flour', and Greek Φήρον (Phḗron): 'plant deity'.
The three species are sometimes known as farro piccolo, farro medio, and farro grande, which are einkorn, emmer, and spelt, respectively. While these names reflect the general size difference between these three grains, there are landraces of each that are smaller or larger than the typical size and cross into the size range of the others.
- Suzanne Hamlin (June 11, 1997). "Farro, Italy's Rustic Staple: The Little Grain That Could". The New York Times.
- Szabó, A. T., and K. Hammer. "Notes on the Taxonomy of Farro: Triticum monococcum, T. dicoccum, and T. spelta". Padulosi, S., K. Hammer and J. Heller, eds. 1996. Hulled Wheats. Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 4. Proceedings of the First International Workshop on Hulled Wheats, 21-22 July 1995, Castelvecchio Pascoli, Tuscany, Italy. International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Rome. 2-3. Print.
- Markus Buerli (2006). "Farro in Italy: A desk study" (PDF). The Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species.
- Hamlin, Suzanne (June 11, 1997). "Farro, Italy's Rustic Staple: The Little Grain That Could". New York Times. Retrieved November 22, 2012.
- Schlegel, Rolf H. J., and Rolf H. J. Schlegel. "Farro". Dictionary of Plant Breeding. 2nd ed. Boca Raton: CRC, 2010. 149. Print.
- Julavits, Heidi (November 30, 2008). "Grain Exchange". The New York Times.