Wheat berries. Hmm. What are wheat berries? They’re simply the kernel of grain that would be ground into flour. Nothing more, nothing less. Our farmer periodically grows wheat because it grows close enough together to choke out weeds. So, when a field gets pretty weedy, he’ll plant it up with wheat and let the wheat plants kill off the weeds. Then, when harvest time comes, we get wheat berries. Nice! A crop that kills weeds, but nourishes the body.
Wheat berries are a bit difficult to use. No matter how long you cook them, they seem to remain chewy, with the outer coating never really breaking down. Yes, we could break the kernels and make bulgur, but, instead we like to use them in dishes that cook for a long time. For example, along with beans, as in wheat-berry chili. Of course, this might be better in the middle of winter, but we have gotten so many dried beans of late that we had to use at least some of them.
If you are looking to buy wheat berries, we’ve seen them at our local food co-op. For the chili powder, we did not use home-made; it is way too hot to use in the quantity required here. Instead, we used one of the commercial brands. Everything else on the list is self-explanatory. For the beans (and wheat berries, too), you might want to pick through them and remove any that appear to be bad, or any small stones, etc.
Procedure in detail:
Quick-soak beans. Bring 6 cups of water with the 1/2 tsp of salt and bay leaf to a boil. Add beans and wheat berries and bring back to a boil. Turn off heat and let sit for 1 hour.
Cook beans. Return beans and wheat berries to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until beans are tender, about 2-3 hours. Note that the wheat berries will remain chewy.
Add onion. In a separate skillet, heat oil over medium heat until shimmery. Add onion and cook until tender, then add to beans and wheat berries.
Add remaining ingredients. Remove the bay leaf, add the spices, the corn, and the tomatoes. Continue simmering for 1-2 hours to let the flavors meld.
Serve. We dished ours up with a dollop of sour cream right in the middle.
We like this version of chili; the wheat berries give it a nice, somewhat chewy texture, and it’s not too spicy, since we don’t add too much of the hot chili powder. Easy to put together, since you basically start it cooking and let it simmer for most of the day. It also looks nice, as the yellow corn stands out against the black beans, and it pairs perfectly with sour cream. Four stars.