Red Fife is a heritage wheat that is bred for its flavor. It likely originated as Halychanka wheat in western Ukraine. Eventually, the “little seed that could” found its way to Ontario farmer David Fife, after whom the seed was eventually named.
Red Fife was widely used throughout the Canadian region until the 20th Century, when it was replaced by hybrid wheat varieties.
According to GrowNYC, which has been working to re-establish grain production in the northeast United States, Red Fife is New York’s first locally-grown heritage wheat. Red Fife can be grown as a winter berry or a spring grain (the below recipe uses the winter variety), and can be cooked whole as a berry or ground into flour to be used in artisanal breads.
Chef Alexandra Borgia of Natural Gourmet Institute describes the flavor of the Red Fife berry as fresh and hearty with nutty undertones. “The flavor profile is similar to that of a wheat berry,” she says, “but with a more approachable texture and a more complex, less sweet flavor.” There is little nutritional research available about Red Fife, but many ancient grains are sought out by people with gluten intolerance. Kayleen St. John, MS, RD says that because Red Fife is lower in gliadin, products made with Red Fife may alleviate gluten-related symptoms and be easier to tolerate.
Red Fife Berry Salad
Yield: Five 1-cup portions
1 cup Red Fife berries, rinsed and soaked overnight
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups pecans
1 acorn squash peeled, seeded and cut into ½ inch cubes
½ pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, wiped clean with a damp paper towel and cut into ¼ inch pieces
1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ ounce chives, chopped
2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Place Red Fife Berries in a gallon pot with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 quarts of water. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 45 to 55 minutes, or until tender. The berries will retain a dense texture but not be hard. Drain the cooked Red Fife and place in a large mixing bowl
Place the pecans on a sheet pan and roast for 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove the pecans from the oven and raise the temperature to 425°F.
Place the acorn squash and shiitakes in a bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and ¼ teaspoon salt. Place on a clean sheet pan and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While vegetables are roasting, roughly chop the pecans and add to Red Fife berries.
When squash is tender and shiitakes slightly crisp, remove from oven and add to the berry mixture.
Place remaining ingredients (extra virgin olive oil, chives, apple cider vinegar, honey, Dijon, salt and pepper) in a blender and blend until emulsified.
Pour over the berry mixture and mix well. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Note: If using a pressure cooker to cook Red Fife, the cooking time will be cut down to 25 minutes.