By Dorothy Long, Home Economist
Barley puts the super in superfood and the ancient in ancient grain! Archeological evidence indicates that wild forms of barley were harvested as early as 17,000 BCE and that it was used to make beer as far back as 3,200 BCE. Today, Barley is the fourth largest crop we grow in Canada.
Why is Barley a Superfood?
My husband would say because you can make beer out of it. However, healthwise, there are few foods that can boast having a health claim. Barley has two! One from Health Canada and one from the Food and Drug Administration in the US. Both health claims are based on research findings that the soluble fibre in barley, called beta glucan, helps reduce cholesterol. Beta glucan is found in all cereal grains but is particularly rich in barley and oats. Soluble fibre also aids in controlling blood sugar levels making it a great choice for diabetics or if you are trying to lose weight. Barley, of course, is also high in insoluble fibre that promotes healthy digestion. Barley is also high in protein and B vitamins.
Types of Barley
Pot and Pearl Barley:
This type of barley has been polished to remove some or all of the bran layer along with the hull. If it is lightly pearled, the seed will be a tan colour and is called pot barley. If it is heavily polished, the seed will be smaller and white in colour, it is called pearl barley. Technically, pearl and pot barley are not considered a whole grain because the bran has been removed. However, fibre in barley is distributed through the kernel, so pearl and pot barley still contain a lot of healthy fibre.
Quick Cooking Barley:
are precooked and dried which reduces the cooking time to just 10 minutes on the stovetop. Nutritionally the same as pearl barley.
Similar to steel-cut oats. Barley grits are kernels that have been sit into several pieces. Grits from hulless barley are considered whole grain.
Just like rolled oats. They are created by steaming, rolling and drying barley kernels.
Barley flour has a coarse texture and nutty flavour that lends itself well to hearty baked goods like spice cake, molasses cookies or artisan breads. You can try it by replacing the all-purpose flour in your baked recipes with a quarter to half barley flour. Barley flour does contain gluten although, not as much as wheat flour. Therefore, to make bread that will rise properly, barley flour is usually blended with wheat flour. Barley flour does have a shorter shelf life then wheat flour, so store it in the refrigerator or freezer to maximize freshness.
Barley Cooking Tips
- Barley has a slightly nutty flavor. It can take on the flavor of the liquid it is cooked in, so for a savoury flavour use stock, and for a neutral flavour, use water and for a sweeter note, add some fruit juice to the water.
- The ratio of cooking liquid to barley can vary from 2-3 parts liquid to 1-part barley. If you are using the cooked barley in a salad or side dish and want a chewier texture, use 2 parts liquid. If you are wanting a softer texture (like for a stew or soup) then use 3 parts liquid.
- 1 cup dry barley = about 3 cups cooked
- Cooked barley will continue to absorb liquid after cooking. If you use barley in a soup or stew and there are leftovers, they will thicken and you may need to add additional stock or water when reheating the dish.
- Stovetop: In a saucepan, combine liquid and barley. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until barley is cooked to desired texture, about 40 to 50 minutes.
- Oven Simmer: In a casserole or Dutch oven, combine liquid and barley. Bake at 350 F (180 C) for 1 to 1 ½ hours.
- Rice Cooker: Add 2 – 3 cups (500 – 750) liquid and 1 cup (250 mL) barley to rice cooker and cook as you would brown rice.
- Slow Cooker: Add 2 – 3 cups (500 – 750) cups liquid and 1 cup (250 mL) barley to cook for 3 to 4 hours on low heat.
- Instant Pot: Add 2 – 3 cups (500 – 750 mL) liquid and 1 cup (250 mL) barley to pressure cook for 20 minutes.
- For salads where you want the grains to not clump together you can after cooking quickly rinse barley and drain thoroughly to remove surface starch if you want the grains to be separate and not stick together.
Barley is so versatile and is excellent in soups, side dishes and even baking!
Baked mushroom caps have been piled with a savoury barley spinach stuffing and sprinkled with cheese. They make an eye-catching appetizer or a vegetarian main dish when served with a salad and crusty rolls.
- 4 large Portobello mushrooms
- 2 tsp (10 mL) canola oil
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped onion
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) pot or pearl barley
- 2 cups (500 mL) less-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) whole grain bulgur
- 1/2 tsp (2 mL) dried summer savoury
- 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
- 1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper
- 8 cups (2 L) fresh spinach leaves, thinly sliced crosswise
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) shredded Swiss, Monterey Jack or Parmesan cheese
- Remove stems from mushrooms and coarsely chop. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, heat oil and sauté onion, garlic and mushroom stems 1 minute. Stir in barley. Add broth, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover pan and simmer 30 minutes. Stir in bulgur and continue to simmer 12 to 15 minutes or until grains are almost tender. Stir in savoury, salt and pepper. Stir in spinach. Cover and simmer 4 minutes or until spinach is wilted.
- Pre-heat oven to 375⁰F (190⁰C). Line an ovenproof pan with aluminum foil.
- Use a spoon or sharp knife to scrape gills from mushroom caps; discard gills. Place caps, rounded side down, in prepared pan. Once spinach mixture is cooked spoon it into the mushroom caps and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and cheese is slightly melted.
Makes 4 servings.
Keep a stash of rhubarb in the freezer just so you can enjoy this warm, comforting dessert year-round. Serve with a puff of whipped cream.
- 3 cups (750 mL) sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb, thawed
- 1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar, divided
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp (15 mL) water
- 1 cup (250 mL) fresh or frozen raspberries
- 1 cup (250 mL) whole barley flour
- 1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) baking powder
- 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) milk
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- Preheat oven to 400⁰F (200⁰C).
- In a saucepan, combine rhubarb,1 cup (250 mL) less 2 Tbsp (30 mL) sugar, cornstarch and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then cook while stirring for 1 minute. Stir in raspberries. Pour into a round 9-inch (23 cm) baking dish.
- In a small bowl, combine whole barley flour, reserved 2 Tbsp (30 mL) granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In another small bowl, combine milk and egg, then add to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Spoon over hot rhubarb mixture. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm.
Makes 6 servings.
Barley flour makes melt-in-your-mouth gingersnaps. These have just the right blend of ginger and cinnamon, and the dough is easy to handle. Store the baked cookies in an airtight container to keep them crisp.
- 2 1/4 cups (560 mL) whole barley flour
- 2 tsp (10 mL) baking soda
- 2 tsp (10 mL) ground ginger
- 1 tsp (5 mL) ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
- 3/4 cup (175 mL) butter or margarine, softened
- 1 1/4 cup (310 mL) granulated sugar, divided
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) molasses
- Preheat oven to 350⁰F (180⁰C).
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter or margarine until creamy. Gradually beat in 1 cup (250 mL) of the sugar. Place the remaining 1/4 cup (60 mL) of sugar in a small bowl. Beat egg and molasses into butter mixture. Gradually stir in flour mixture and continue mixing until a soft dough forms. Shape dough into 1-inch (2.5 cm) balls. and roll each ball until coated with sugar. Place balls 2 inches (5 cm) apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until tops are rounded and slightly cracked. Remove from oven and let set for 3 minutes and then remove to wire racks to cool.
Makes about 48 cookies.
Italian sausages and green lentils pair with barley in this simple-to-make soup. Add bread, a green salad, and dessert to complete the meal.
- 2 tsp (10 mL) canola oil
- 2 mild or hot Italian sausages
- 5 celery stalks, including leaves
- 1/3 cup (75 mL) pot or pearl barley
- 1/3 cup (75 mL) dried green lentils
- 2 cartons (32 oz /900 mL) each less-sodium, ready-to-use chicken broth, or 8 cups/2 L water
- 1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper
- In a large saucepan over medium-high, heat oil. Squeeze sausages out of their casings into the saucepan and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until no longer pink. Chop the celery, including leaves, and add to sausage. Cook, stirring, for five minutes. Stir in barley, lentils, and broth or water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover pan, and simmer for 45 minutes or until barley and lentils are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Makes 6 servings about 1 2/3 cups (400 mL) each