Soft Wheatberry Salad with Zucchini and Apricots Recipe

Salade de Blé Tendre, Courgette et Abricot

[Soft Wheatberry Salad with Zucchini and Apricots]

I am a great lover of all things grain. Quinoa, bulgur, kamut, buckwheat, barley, amaranth, millet — each of them nutritious, filling and tasty in its own personal way (although they all seem to be indifferently described as “nutty” on the package, or un goût de noisette in French). I also love that most of them can be traced all the way back to ancient civilisations — you know, way before instant rice and microwave popcorn, when myths and legends saw them as a gift of the gods.

Organic, “natural food” and ethnic stores are usually your best bets to find interesting grains, and I like it when they offer them by the weight in bulk bins (or huge cloth bags in ethnic stores), so that you can buy as much or as little as you need to play and experiment with.

One type of grain that I particularly like is the soft wheatberry, a.k.a. spring wheat, pastry wheat or blé tendre in French. A wheatberry is a wheat kernel from which the outer hull has been removed, and the soft wheatberry is just one variety of wheat, the kind from which pastry and cake flour is made. Pasta on the other hand is usually made from durum wheat, a harder kind of wheat which has more gluten, offers a higher protein-to-starch ration, but takes forever to cook. The soft wheatberry, as sold in France under the Ebly brand (and widely distributed in grocery stores), takes ten minutes to cook and blossom into plump little nuggets — tender, yet offering a nice, slightly chewy bite.

Soft wheatberries are a great side to serve with both meat or fish, you can flavor them with herbs or blend in vegetables, and I think they work particularly well cold, in salad form. I improvized this fresh and pretty variation for lunch the other day, tossing the cooked berries together with raw grated zucchini, a bit of garlic and some chopped cilantro — cilantro I love you so — and then, on a whim, adding in a few of the tan apricots that were lazying around on the counter.

[More info on grains and wheat.]

Salade de Blé Tendre, Courgette et Abricot

– 1 C (120g) uncooked soft wheat berries (you can use the brand, available in some European countries)
– 2 small zucchini
– 4 fresh ripe apricots (substitute dried apricots if fresh are out of season)
– a small bouquet of cilantro (about 20 stems)
– 1 garlic clove
– 1 Tbsp walnut oil (substitute olive oil)
– 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
piment d’espelette or ground chili, to taste
– salt, to taste

(Serves two as a main course, four as a starter or side.)

Cook the soft wheat berries according to package instructions. Drain and let cool in colander.

Grate the zucchini using the large holes of a cheese grater. Dice the apricots. Pluck the cilantro leaves and chop them roughly. Chop the garlic clove thinly or crush it with a garlic press.

Combine cooked wheat berries, zucchini, apricots, cilantro and garlic in a medium salad bowl. Add in the olive oil and vinegar, toss to coat. Season with piment d’espelette and salt.

Refrigerate for a couple of hours so the flavors will have time to develop, or serve immediately if very hungry.

  • Marley

    Salut Clotilde! Your salad looks divine. I’m very fond of pearl barley, which I add to a salad of flat-leaf parsely, mint, avocado and beetroot (amongst other things). If you leave it to marinate for a bit, the grains turn a pretty pink colour from the beetroot. And I’m so impressed with your website- I love how you update it so regularly. I look forward to each new and invariably yummy entry :)

  • Joanne

    Hey Clotide,

    I was happy to see a French woman reading/linking to a site from my department (University of Minnesota Food Science and Nutrition Dept). I am a grad student their working with whole wheat in the University’s sensory center. I am currently in the depths of my thesis project (basically (well, not really) baking rolls all day and then feeding them to panelist). I wanted to provide another link that has descriptions and the history of all the major grains eaten in the world.

  • Hi Clotilde,
    I love cooking wheat berries for salads but I never realized the different kinds (summer, spring, red, white, soft, hard) actually cooked differently. I’m glad I stopped by today.

  • *

    those bulk bins bring in bugs

  • victoria

    You are adorable. You make me wish I were French and had that whole “enjoy every moment” approach to life. Sadly I am an American attorney and spend my life racing the clock.

  • valentina jacome

    Hi Clotilde,

    I’m a big fan of Chocolate & Zucchini. It inspires me. Just wanted to say a big thank you.


  • Sounds delicious.

  • ann

    i usually make a wheatberry salad recipe that has cherry tomatoes, artichokes, red onion, lime juice, and a lot of minced garlic. i love the idea of making a wheatberry salad with apricots! thank you for your post.

  • coing

    Sounds wonderful, but when I bought the soft-wheat berries, the label says cook 2-4 hours.
    Is the Ebly brand precooked or am I missing something?

  • Rose – Thanks so much for the kind words and the tag is happily accepted! It may take me a little while to do it, but I will.

    Coing – You know, I was wondering about that. Nowhere on the Ebly package or website does it say that the wheatberries are pre-cooked (whereas precooked rice usually says so) so I thought they weren’t, but if your wheat berries take 2 to 3 hours to cook, either they’re a different variety, or mine are precooked! Maybe you can ask at the store whether they know of another kind, possibly precooked?

  • Keturah

    So, could I substitute bulgur wheat for the soft wheat berries? (Unhappily, I couldn’t find them)

  • Eileen

    Does anybody know what soft wheat berries are called in Italian? And what can you do with kamut? Thanks for the recipes.

  • linda

    It was delicious but on the next attempt I will definitely use the dried apricots—the fresh ones, sorry to say, had to compete with the garlic and vinegar and the garlic won.

  • coll

    The Italian, they are called Grano.

  • Dawn

    I just returned from a glorious trip to France and have tried desperately to get my hands on some blé tendre. It seems as though many of you have tried this recipe – where did you find your wheat berries?

    My professors of Food Science friends in Paris say that the Ebly blé is in fact parboiled.


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