The farro or wheat of the Garfagnana is different from the farro grown anywhere else in Italy. The farro in the rest of Italy is spelt (Triticum spelta) of Roman times which is closely related to modern bread wheat.
The farro of the Garfagnana is emmer (Triticum dicoccum) and is one of the two types of wheat that was cultivated by the first farmers in the Fertile Crescent of the Near East more than 10,000 years ago.
Unlike spelt, durum and modern bread wheat, it has an inner husk that doesn't come off during threshing.
To remove this husk, the farmers of the Garfagnana use a special machine adapted from the rice-polishing equipment of the Piedmont.
Emmer has a lower gluten content than spelt and therefore must be combined with modern bread wheat for yeast bakery.
On the other hand, the whole grains do not require soaking (as does spelt) before cooking and are superb in the traditional Garfagnana soups, salads, savoury tarts and 'farrotto' (a risotto made with farro instead of rice).
text copyright Heather Jarman, Sapori e Saperi