What is Barley?

Hordeum vulgare L.

Grass Family:  Gramineae (Poaceae)

Barley is the 4th most important cereal crop in the world after Wheat. The world production was 136 million tonnes in 2007 (Fao.org)

Most of the barley produced worldwide is used as a feed for animals. The second largest use of barley grain is for malt and the third, for human consumption. 90 % of malted barley is utilized for malting beer and the remainder for food substitutes. (Fao.org)

By Cliff from Arlington, Virginia, USA (Barley (Hordeum vulgare)) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The larges producer (2014) was Russia followed by France, Germany, Ukraine, Canada, Spain, UK and Turkey. (WIKI)

Morocco is the leading consumer of barley in the world with 88.3 kg per capita followed by Ethiopia, Algeria, Afghanistan and Iraq, Tunisia and Lybia (Fao.org)

Barley grows under a wide range of conditions from the temperates to the tropics.

Barely is more flavourful and chewy than white rice but not as strongly flavoured as brown rice. Like Oats, it’s an excellent source of soluble fibre and can be effective in lowering cholesterol levels(The Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition).

Most of the barley sold for consumption in North America (US, Canada) has been milled to remove the bran. Barley grain is available in three forms: Hulled, Pot and Pearled.

1. Hulled Barley (Barley Groats)

Hulled barley is the whole grain barley with the outer inedible husk removed but the bran is intact. Hulled barley is rich in dietary fibre and contains more iron, four times more thiamin and trace minerals.

The grains are brown in colour and take long to cook. The flavour is pronounced which makes it an excellent ingredient for soups and stews. Hulled barley is not widely available for sale here in North America (Canada, US). (The Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition)

2. Pot Barley (Scotch Barley)

In pot barley, the bran layer has been partially removed (it’s milled only three times in the pearling machine).

Pot barley is usually added to soups and stews. It’s more likely to be found in health or bulk barn stores.

3. Pearl (Pearled Barley)

In pearl barley, the bran layer has been stripped off entirely using a pearling machine. (the grain is milled six times). You can more or less equate it to white rice although white rice undergoes further processing whereby the grains are polished to make them completely white. Pearled barely has ivory coloured grains.

Pearled barley cooks in the shortest time compared to pot and hulled barley. It has a delicate nutlike taste that readily absorbs the favours of the other ingredients in soups, salads and die dishes

Other forms of barley include the following:

Quick Barley

An instant form of pearl barley called quick barley cooks even faster because it’s pre-cooked by steaming. It has the same nutritional value as the whole pearled barley.

Barley Flakes (Flaked Barley)

This is similar to rolled oats. They are grains that have been flattened. They can be cooked as a hot cereal or mixed with muesli or baked goods.

Barley Grits

These are similar to bulgur (cracked wheat). The grains have been toasted and cracked into small pieces. Grits can be cooked and served like rice of breakfast cereal or used in baking.

Stone Ground Barley Flour

Stone ground barley flour is made by grinding whole barley grain (groats). Fine barley flour is made by grinding pearl barley.

Stone ground barley flour is low in gluten. It produces a heavy, dark bread.

Barley flour can be used to replace part of wheat flour in a recipe to produce a distinct nutty flavour and great texture.

When baking yeast breads, you can replace up to a quarter of wheat flour with barley flour.

When baking quick breads and other baked goods like muffins, cookies, or pancakes you can replace up to half of wheat flour with barley flour.

Barley flour can also be used to thicken soups and sauces.

Storage Tips: store in a cool, dry cupboard in an airtight container.

How to Cook Barley

Barley is most often simmered in a pot like rice although you can also bake it in a casserole in the oven.

To 1 cup hulled barley, add 4 cups water and simmer 1 hour 40 minutes. This yields 3 cups cooked barley.

To 1 cup pearl barley add 3 cups water and simmer 55 minutes. This yields 4 cups cooked barley.

To 1 cup quick barley add 2 cups water and cook 10-12 minutes then let stand 5 minutes. This  yields 3 cups cooked barley.

To 1 cup barley grits (toasted and cracked barley) add 1 cup water and let stand 2-3 minutes before serving yields 2/3 cup cooked grits.

1 cup barley flakes (rolled like oats) add 3 cups water and simmer 30 minutes. This yields 2 cups cooked flakes.

Here is The difference between Pot and Pearl Barley


Author: Liz

I love everything food: eating, cooking, baking and travelling. I also love photography and nature.

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