Grünkern (= approx. "green grain") is a local German delicacy which -- paradoxically -- has sprung out of famine and hunger.
A good taste of bad times
In the early 1600's a severe famine struck parts of central Germany. If people wanted to survive, they had to harvest their wheat before it was ripe, in a "green" state (= grün in German). So they harvested and then dried the green grains (Korn or Kern in German) over a fire in order to get something to eat. A few years later, during happier times and good harvests, they remembered the delightfully spicy, aromatic taste of the fire-dried "green" wheat. By repeating the "green grain"-procedure on purpose, they created a culinary specialty. Documentary evidence shows that Grünkern has been on the local markets as a tasty specialty from 1660 on.
Mostly of local fame
The area where Grünkern is produced is quite limited -- Grünkern is hardly a staple in ordinary German grocery stores. But some 120 farmers produce the stuff in an area south of Würzburg, centered around the small town of Bad Mergentheim. Lately, the soup manufacturer Knorr has started marketing two Grünkern-based soups.
The variety of wheat used for Grünkern is called "Dinkel" (the corresponding English name is spelt, as I was informed by Razhumikin). It is of course harvested before it is fully ripe and then dried at 120-180 degrees Celsius. The grains can be used as grains, as crushed grains or as flour. It takes as long as 60 minutes of boiling to get something that reminds of raw rice in consistency, but Grünkern has a decidedly more aromatic and interesting taste. Today Grünkern is mainly used in soups, either as grains, or as Grünkern dumplings.
100 g of Grünkern contains 350 kcal of energy, 12 g protein, 2.7 fat, 69 g carbohydrates and 2 g nutritional fibers. It also contains a number of minerals, e.g. 410 mg phosphorus, 115 mg magnesium and 6.5 mg iron.
Information from Vereinigung fränkischer Grünkernerzeuger, 6990 Bad Mergentheim, Germany
In Situ tasting of the stuff, by noder