Barley ranks fourth among the cereals in worldwide production. It is an important crop for direct human consumption and for animal feed. It is unique as a source of malt for beer and other products. Barley was one of the first domesticated cereals, most likely originating in the Fertile Crescent area of the Near East. Many references to barley and beer are found in early Egyptian writings that are more than 5000 years old. All barley varieties are covered with a tough inedible hull. This hull must be removed in order for the kernel inside to be used for human food. The outer hull is removed by a mechanical sanding process that is called “pearling”. Pearled barley is the most readily available product and may be found in most supermarkets next to dry beans, rice and lentils. Barley may be pearled to varying degrees. The more the barley is pearled, the lighter in color the end product appears. Most of the barley sold in supermarkets as “pearled barley” has been only lightly pearled. This means that the tough inedible outer hull has been sanded off as well as some, but not all, of the bran layer. Lightly pearled barley appears light brown in color, similar to the color of brown rice. The light brown color indicates the presence of bran (outer layer of the kernel). Lightly pearled barley may be considered whole grain because the kernel retains some bran
as well as the germ and endosperm. More heavily pearled barley appears white in color (similar to white rice).
Barley flour, flakes, and grits may be found in health food and specialty stores. Barley is also used as a commercial ingredient in prepared foods such as breakfast cereals, soups, pilaf mixes, breads, cookies, crackers and snack bars.
Barley was one of the most used grains of the Scots. It is right up there with oats in their cooking.
Season: available year-round
How to prepare: Cooks in liquid in 20-30 minutes, used in soups ans stews.