Jabal’Amel Freekeh

Freekeh
I bought this freekeh at the Salone del Gusto last year in October. It’s produced by a Presidia in Lebanon. Slow Food presidium are projects in which small-scale producers/artisans are identified and aided in their attempt to safeguard a dying grain, species or practice. These efforts are community-rooted: they help revive a culinary tradition that risks being lost/enable farmers to make a living while preserving their physical environment/may help a disenfranchised group like women/pass on knowledge to children. From the packet:

Jabal Amel is an area located in Southern Lebanon. Its landscape is characterized by wide terraces on which local wheat is continually produced as a rain fed crop. Many households in different Lebanese wheat production areas make “freekeh”, or roasted green wheat. It is a specialty linked to Jabal Amel. It is said that freekeh originated around 2300 BC, when the attackers of a Mediterranean village set its green wheat fields on fire before retreating. The inhabitants later rubbed away the burnt layer and found that the grain had ripened due to the heat and that it had retained a greenish hue. This discovery led later to the production of freekeh.

I remember when I asked the Lebanese delegate in what way this freekeh was different, she was at a loss for words. After a while, she struggled to explain how freekeh across the Middle East was different, but as reporters came along, she had to cut short our discussion. Having tasted it, now I know. It has an intriguing almost ‘meaty’ smell when it first warms up, then a wonderful grilled, greenish, wheaty smell fills the air as it’s cooking. Cooked, the grains retain their brownish-green hue and chewy texture. I imagine this would pair marvellously with spiced meatballs in a tomato sauce. But I just did aubergines in tomato sauce and frankly, I could eat this grain plain. Tis sad that we’re down to the last servings… If anyone wants to get hold of this, it’s grown by Khalil Olleik of Jabal’Amel, Nabatiye, in Lebanon. And I suppose Slow Food Beirut would provide more information.
Freekeh cooked

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