Barley is one of the world’s oldest cultivated crops, and yet it has slipped off the table as a major source of food in many parts of the world, including the United States, where barley is currently grown primarily for malt and feed. We are raising awareness about barley as a source of human food by promoting delicious ways to prepare barley- from a simple brown rice substitute to using barley flour in baked goods.
Barley comes in many forms - from whole grain to flour.
Pearled barley: Pearling involves mechanical abrasion to remove the hull. Since most barley varieties - bred for malting or feed - have adhering hulls, much of the pearled food barley that is currently available is made from varieties that have hulls. If the barley has a hull, you'll most likely want to pearl it. The hull is insoluble dietary fiber. To date we've yet to find a good small-scale pearler: they seem to come in two sizes - nano (1/4 cup at a time) or mega (tons/hour). Please let us know if you find one. Pearled barley is not considered a whole grain. The advantage of pearling is that it shortens cooking time. While nutrient fractions in the outer layer of cells are lost during pearling, most of the beta glucan content remains. This is beta glucan in all cell walls of the barley seed.
Whole grain without hulls: The way to go with food barley is naked (hull-less). With a naked barley, at harvest the hulls separate from the seed. Just like in wheat, barley's more familiar cousin. Therefore, a hull-less barley grain is just like wheat grain - it can be milled into flour, flaked, steamed, or added to soups. Like wheat berries, barley berries will be crunchy if prepared directly. Cooking time can be reduced - and a fluffy rice-like consistency achieved - by light pearling (buffing) or cracking the grain. Buffing is easily done at home by running one cup of grain, on high, in a blender for 30 seconds. This will lightly pearl the barley - but no worries: you can still get the goodness of whole grain. Just sieve off the flour and use it for baking. You can also crack the barley in a stone mill set at its widest setting. Ask your local whole grains supplier for whole grain naked barley as is (for soups), buffed or cracked.
Flour, flakes, couscous and more: Naked barley, and pearled versions of barley with hulls, can be processed like any other grain.
We've created a Barley zine as part of the OREI naked barley project that includes many delicious recipes for beginners to advanced cooks. Check it out!
OSU Food Innovation Center Recipes. Sarah Masoni and Mary-Kate Moody have developed exciting new products and recipes.
Steamed grain. You can substitute barley in any recipe that calls for brown rice. For stove top cooking, use a ratio of 1 barley: 3 water. Bring barley/water mixture to a vigorous boil until water is almost gone. Cover pot and let rest with low (or no) heat for 20 minutes. Approximate cooking time - from start to finish - is ~ 40 minutes for 1 cup of barley. We've had great success with the Zojirushi SN-LAC05 rice cooker, using the brown rice setting. For risotto, follow the recipe instructions.
To cook barley in a pressure cooker: use 4 cups water, 1 cup barley, and 1 Tbs oil. Bring to boil (cooker begins to hiss, rattle) turn heat to medium and then start timing for 18-20 mins. It ends up with some leftover water to drain. Makes almost 3 cups, cooked.
Baked goods. Since barley gluten does not have the strength and elasticity of wheat gluten, barley flour is belended with wheat flour in various ratios for risen breads. In quick breads an cookies, substitute barley for wheat at your pleasure.
Dr. Mary Cluskey (The OSU Moore Center for Nutrition, Whole Grain and Preventive Health) and students in Nutrition 311 developed 8 barley recipes which were served for lunch at a memorable Barley Day. The recipes include serving size and nutritional information:
Barley food links
Barley Products Note: this is not a commercial endorsement, but rather a sample of International barley foods