Barley – Interesting Facts

Barley is one of the oldest cultivated grains in the world. Even today it is grown in many parts of the world, although less than corn, rice or wheat. Although barley is closely related to wheat, it contains less gluten, making it less suitable for baking, but it is not completely gluten free. Pearl barley or barley flakes in particular supply enough energy for the day.

 

Food Facts Food Facts

Barley

Class

sweet grass

Calories

345 kcal per 100g

Nutrients

71g carbohydrate, 4.6g fibre, 1.4g fat, 9.6g protein per 100g

Season

available year-round

Storage

store in an airtight container in a dark place at room temperature

Shelf life

at least a year

Barley – Origin and Characteristics

Barley is supposed to have originated from South Asia and has been consumed since 15,000 BC. Today it is cultivated in the USA, Canada, Russia and many European countries before being turned into malt, animal food, flour or pearl barley. The barley plant can grow to be a little over one metre and is relatively easy to please, but prefers a damp climate. The maturity of barley can be determined by the spike of the barley plant – the plant is mature as soon as the spike has a slight bend.

Similarly to wheat, there are types of barley that are sowed in the winter and others that are sowed in summer, earning them the respective description as winter or summer barley. Additionally, spelt and naked barley are other types. The latter does not form the husk typical for barley that surrounds the grain and has to be mechanically removed during the production of pearl barley. 

Barley – Preparation Methods

Barley is a valuable source of fibre and contains niacin, phosphorous and zinc. It has a delicate, nutty flavour, which goes well in savoury and sweet dishes alike. Barley flakes can be used as an ingredient in muesli, while barley flour, mixed with other flour, ensures your biscuits are particularly crispy.

Pearl barley requires the grain to be shucked, peeled and polished. It can then be boiled in a little salt water like rice and served as a side or in soups, stews and salads. A particularly elegant and interesting way to use pearl barley is to make a risotto out of it instead of risotto rice. The preparation is the same as for a traditional risotto. Mushrooms and thyme are great ingredients for a pearl barley risotto.

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