spotlight on



Although with strong roots in western Asia, barley is the second most widely grown crop in the UK.  This ancient grain, with a history said to be stretching back more than 10,000 years, thrives in our temperate climate and occupies acres of arable farmland particularly in the north and west of Britain.

Traditionally taken for milling to create highly versatile barley flour, or eaten as a whole grain, the cultivation of barley today is primarily used in the brewing industry.  Deemed as the best grain to aid the malting process, it has become a key catalyst in the production of both beer and whisky.

Despite the fact that barley has been a staple ingredient for thousands of years, offering fibre, nutrients and sustenance to our diet, only 10% of the world’s barley production makes it into the food industry.  However, barley’s nutritional benefits and versatility has seen increased exposure in recent years as the popularity of ancient grains has also risen.  Barley is widely available in four different forms;

Hulled barley:

Otherwise known as whole-wheat barley, hulled barley is when only the outer husk has been removed and the bran layer remains intact.  Due to the presence of the bran layer, hulled barely is high in nutrition and particularly high in fibre resulting in a very textured grain with an intensely nutty flavour.  Hulled barley takes the longest to cook – up to 60 minutes

Pearl barley:

Pearl barley is the most common form.  Similar to hulled barley with no outer husk, pearl barley also has the bran layers removed.  Its texture is a little softer and take less time to cook – 30 to 40 mins.  With the bran layer removed however, pearl barley is less nutritional and has a milder nutty flavour

Rolled/flaked barley:

Similar to rolled oats, flaked barley is traditionally used in cereals, porridge and some baking recipes.  This takes the shortest amount of time to cook, absorbing liquid quickly similar to rolled oats

Barley flour:

Also known as barley meal, barley flour is becoming more widely available.  With a low gluten structure, barley is often used in unleavened bread.  It is traditionally combined with a flour that is high in gluten to achieve products with a reasonable rise.

Traditionally, barley is associated to savoury recipes, often being associated with soups and stews; but with such versatility and as a great source of fibre, this grain is a perfect alternative to refined products.  Barley is ideal in baking and desserts as well as being the ideal base to a healthy and wholesome breakfast.  With its unusual texture and nutty flavours adding depth and interest to recipes GrowEatGather loves this super grain in sweet barley recipes too.

Lemon and Mint Barley Water
Dream Cake with Barley and Berries
Pot Barley Orange and Sesame Pudding
Barley Granola Bars
Barley Porridge with Maple Glazed Almonds and Blood Orange 

Words by Helen Upshall

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on TumblrEmail this to someone