Invite This Salad to your Holiday Table

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Christmas Slaw with Farro, Pomegranates, Cherries and Pistachios

Every feast needs something fresh and crunchy to balance rich holiday foods.  Here it is.  Call it a slaw, since it has purple cabbage, but that’s where ordinary ends.

This slaw is powered with super-food status foods with histories of nourishing people since ancient times.

Farro, an ancient wheat variety often thought to be of Italian origin, is native to the Fertile Crescent and was found in Egyptian tombs. Italians know a good thing when they see it – irresistibly chewy, whole grain farro offers niacin, zinc, dietary fiber and plant protein. There are 3 types, farro piccolo (einkorn) farro medio (emmer) and farro grande (spelt). Any one of these is a great choice for this recipe (1).

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Pomegranates, ancient symbols of prosperity and fertility, have been used in Ayurvedic medicine and in cooking for thousands of years (2).  Rich in antioxidant polyphenols, the past 10 years has seen an explosion of research into anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and cardioprotective effects of this fruit which also supplies vitamins C, B6 and the mineral potassium (3).

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Cherries have a long history too – with evidence of them being brought from Turkey to Rome as early as 72 BC (4). Eating cherries has exciting potential health benefits – reducing inflammation, blood pressure, blood lipids, arthritis symptoms, and exercise-induced muscle soreness, and improving sleep, cognition and even mood (5).

Pistachios trees have been enjoyed since 7,000 BC and were mentioned in the Old Testament (6). Their healthful unsaturated fats, protein and fiber make them a satisfying snack or ingredient. Pistachios are high in antioxidants, especially lutein and zeaxanthin, both important for eye health, and they have a higher ratio of essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein, than any other nut (7).

You may not reach for cabbage for vitamin C, but 1 serving (1 ½ cups shredded) of purple cabbage has 66% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin C, plus it is an excellent source of vitamin K, important for blood clotting and bones, and is a good source of vitamin B6 (8).  Cabbage is not glam food like kale and cauliflower, but they, and radishes, are in the cruciferous veggie family, all recognized for nutrient density and potential cancer-fighting properties (9).

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Beyond making this a colorful salad, the red, blue and purple pigments in the cabbage, pomegranate, cherries and radishes are anthocyanins with myriad possible health benefits, mainly due to antioxidant action warding off conditions such as cancer, diabetes, obesity and protecting visual, brain and cardiovascular health (10,11).

Good luck finding these phytonutrients in a pill. There are over 600 types of anthocyanins in plants, part of the flavonoid family of phytonutrients, and when you consume them together as in this salad, they seem to work synergistically along with other nutrients to protect health (11). 

I’ll have this salad on repeat throughout winter. Have a colorful, healthful holiday!

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Christmas Slaw with Farro, Pomegranates, Cherries and Pistachios

You can make the dressing, cook the farro and prep the other ingredients a day ahead and chill; to serve, toss salad, dressing and nuts. For a gluten-free option, try sorghum or quinoa instead of farro.

Serves 6


2 cups thinly shredded purple (red) cabbage

1 cup cooked farro, einkorn, spelt, barley or other grain

3/4 cup pomegranate arils

½ cup dried cherries

1/2 cup julienned or shredded carrot

1/3 cup thinly sliced green onion

3 radishes, thinly sliced, option

¼ cup finely chopped parsley (or half parsley and half fresh thyme leaves) ½ cup roasted pistachios or pine nuts  


3 tablespoons champagne or apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

6 tablespoons olive oil or other vegetable oil

  1. Make Dressing: In bottom of a salad bowl, combine vinegar, honey, mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk to blend. Stir in olive oil. Add cabbage, cooked farro, pomegranate arils, cherries, carrot, green onion, radishes and herbs. Toss to blend. Chill. Can be made up to a day ahead of serving.
  2. Just before serving, taste and add more salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in nuts, if using. Enjoy.


  1. Farro: An Ancient and Complicated Grain Worth Figuring Out. Laura B. Weiss.October 2, 2013. 
  2. Pomegranates: Rich in History and Taste. Lorna J. Sass. Oct. 31, 1979.
  3. Pomegranates — Crimson-Colored Fruit Packing a Wallop of Antioxidants That May Help Prevent Chronic Disease. KC Wright, MS, RDN, LD. Today’s Dietitian. January 2020. Vol. 22, No. 1, P. 32. 
  4. Cherry.
  5. A Review of the Health Benefits of Cherries. Darshan S. Kelley, Yuriko Adkins, and Kevin D. Laugero. Nutrients. 2018 Mar; 10(3): 368. March 17, 2018.
  6. History: Pistachio Origins. 
  7. 9 Health Benefits of Pistachios. Audur Benediktsdottir, MS. October 23, 2019.
  8. The Food Processor® 11.7.217 . ESHA Research
  9. Foods that Fight Cancer. American Institute for Cancer Research. 
  10. Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits. Hock Eng Khoo, Azrina Azlan, Sou Teng Tang, and See Meng Lim. Food Nutr Res. 2017; 61(1): 1361779. Published online August 13, 2017.
  11. The Colorful Truth about Anthocyanins by Victoria Shanta Retelny. Food and Nutrition Magazine Nov/Dec 2016.

© 2020 Lorelle Del Matto


lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.

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