Farike Season

Posted on May 4, 2011

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The season for producing farike has officially opened here in the lower Galilee.  If you see puffs of smoke in the middle of agricultural fields, like we saw yesterday, it’s a pretty sure sign that someone is making farike. 
For those of you who haven’t heard me go on (and on, and on) about this subject, farike is roasted green wheat, which is a highly valued ingredient in local Arab cuisine.  Roasting wheat is an ancient system for processing this grain – and roasted grain is described numerous times in biblical texts.

Farike is made when the grains are fully developed but still green and soft – about a month before they turn dry and golden on the stalk if left to continue to ripen uninterrupted. Only the tops of the wheat are cut – the “shibboleth” in Hebrew – by hand with a sickle.  Then they are left to dry in the sun for 2 days and after that, are lit on fire.  The outer, dry parts char and turn black, while the grains inside their husks are roasted.  The whole black pile is then threshed, to separate the roasted grains from the chaff.  

This is the second season that we went with Balkees to visit Abu S. and his family as they were in the middle of the intensely demanding work that is involved in making farike.  Not only does the wheat have to be harvested by hand, but the entire process that follows is extremely time consuming and labor intensive.   I am full of awe over the spirit, strength and cooperation among this remarkable family, and honored to count them as my friends. 

We rubbed the charred heads of grain between our hands and blew away the chaff to eat the chewy, smoky green kernels.  My friend Balkees recited the Arabic equivalent of the “Shechyanu” prayer that is said when tasting a new fruit for the first time in the season.

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