Tony’s professional career has focussed on managing the development of ventures with particular emphasis on Greenfield or start up activities and transnational business. His company, Greenwheat Freekeh Pty Ltd (GwF) is the first to develop the only technology in the world to manufacture ancient food of Freekeh with modern automated means. His company has been recognized with numerous awards and federal grants for innovation, exports and value adding. Tony recently shared a few minutes with The Yum List and answered some questions we had about this new superfood.
What is freekeh?
Freekeh is not the name of a variety of grain like quinoa or barley or rice. It is a 100% natural process which we apply to grains we harvest when still young and green before they mature. In this process we capture and more importantly retain all the goodness of young green grains which is lost when the grain matures. This is why freekeh is much tastier and healthier than mature grains. Freekeh to grain is like wine to grapes. You can make different kinds of wine from different kinds of grapes and likewise we can make different kinds of freekeh from different kinds of grain. They will taste different from one to another but be very high in nutrition and health benefits.
Is it gluten-free?
No, it is not. We will produce freekeh from non-wheat grain varieties. Freekeh can be made from many grains and some will be gluten free.
How sustainable is it?
The production of freekeh is better for the environment than the production of normal mature grains. Because the grain is harvested early where the farmer does not need to use chemicals which are not only bad for the consumer and the environment but also harmful to farm economics and the future of farming (chemicals are very expensive). Also, harvesting the grain early helps manage many problems with rye grass which is a serious issue in Australian farming.
Freekeh generates a premium to the farmer while at the same time helps reduce farm risk (early harvest means the crop is less exposed to end of season conditions which many times lead to the grain never finishing due to drought or end of season rain or diseases and pests). It simply means less farm risks, more farm returns, less costs, no chemicals and better product of the consumer.
Is it organic?
Many times the term organic is misunderstood or misused. If the question means is Greenwheat freekeh free from any chemicals, additives, colouring, preservative, GMO, pesticides, pesticide residues or anything of this nature then the answer is 100% yes.
Our factory can easily be certified organic at this stage but there are no organically certified farmers in South Australia at present. This will change in the near future and we are also seeking to transfer our technology to produce freekeh in other regions of Australia and other countries where organic farming is more prevalent.
Is it non-GMO?
There is no GMO wheat or cereal crops produced anywhere in South Australia and our Greenwheat Freekeh is 100% GMO free.
What are some different ways to use the grain?
From using it just like rice (rice substitute) to blending freekeh with rice to add taste and improve the nutritional value of the end product to using it for breakfast cereals, Freekeh is hugely versatile. Freekeh flour can be for pasta, noodles, bread (now freekeh flour is being used for pizza dough in New York City and it tastes great). Some companies are using Freekeh grain to make many Freekeh salads or Freekeh soups. Some are using rolled Freekeh or flaked Freekeh for breakfast cereals while others are using Freekeh to make ready vegetarian meals and freekeh burgers (both vegetarian and with meat). Really the list is endless.
What’s your favourite way to enjoy the grain?
I eat it almost by itself. I sometimes cook the cracked grain with little salt (not much at all) then add feta cheese, tomatoes and olives with possibly orange pieces and eat it. It is very filling and great for weight loss. Also I love freekeh as a breakfast cereal. I also eat it in place of rice and sometimes mix it with rice. I love it in soups as it soaks up the flavour. There are many recipes now on the internet and recently on Today Tonight (Channel 7 Australia) the program had it with mushrooms and beetroots and it looked great.
When you say it has a ‘secret’ technology what do you mean?
Making freekeh is not as easy as harvesting the green grains. If you do that then one of two things will happen: 1. If the grain is aerated then it will continue to mature the benefits of the green grains will no longer be present since the grain matures; or 2. if the grain is not aerated then it will mould within 24 hours. Our technology is proprietary and highly protected. It has been subject to many attempts of theft after it took us many years to develop. Through our process we use natural means (fire) to bring the grain to a precise state at which point we immobilise the enzymes in the grain without cooking it. If this point is missed then grain will either be cooked or the enzymes will continue to cause the grain to mature.
Is the packaging environmentally friendly?
Our packaging is recyclable but we are also looking at new packaging as well.
How does it add biodiversity to a farmer’s crops?
The shorter season allows for more crop rotation which helps with the nitrogen-fixing in the soil and also reduces the dependence on chemicals and fertilisers which the world has grown accustomed to over the years. Just as importantly, freekeh is a great way to alleviate the need for GMO crops (particularly in cereal production) and is a way to secure the future of farming. It is a reality that farm economics have been deteriorating over the years forcing many farmers off the land, which can be a good thing for the future of our planet and next generations.
Greenwheat Freekeh is exclusively imported, marketed and distributed in Asia by The Model Cook (M) Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary company of The Model Cook Pty Ltd, Australia. For more information, please contact [email protected] or call +603 7733.1338.
Superfood Greenwheat Freekeh is now available in four stores – Hock Choon Jalan Ampang, Jaya Grocer Intermark, Village Grocer Bangsar and Village Grocer Mont Kiara.
It is available in Wholegrain and Cracked grain at 400g net which is good for 8 – 10 servings and retailing at RM 23.90 per pack.