Scientific Name: Hordeum vulgare
Family: Poaceae (Grass family)
Barley is a nutritious grain that offers various health benefits. Here are some key nutritional facts per 100 grams of cooked barley (pearled):
Calories: 123 kcal
Carbohydrates: 28 grams
Protein: 3 grams
Fat: 0.4 grams
Fiber: 3.5 grams
Vitamins: Barley contains small amounts of vitamins, including niacin (vitamin B3), thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B6, and vitamin E.
Minerals: It is a good source of minerals such as manganese, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, and iron.
Phytonutrients: Barley contains various phytochemicals like lignans and phenolic acids, which possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
The word “barley” originates from the Old English word “bærelic” or “barlic,” which is derived from the Proto-Germanic word “bariz,” meaning “barley.” The ultimate origin of the word is uncertain, but it is believed to have Indo-European roots.
Barley (Hordeum vulgare) is one of the oldest cultivated grains in the world, with a history dating back thousands of years. Its exact origin is believed to be in the Fertile Crescent, an area encompassing present-day Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and southeastern Turkey.
Archaeological evidence suggests that barley was domesticated around 10,000 years ago in this region. Remains of barley grains have been found at ancient archaeological sites, indicating that the crop was cultivated from its wild relative Hordeum spontaneum.
Barley played a significant role in the development of agriculture and human civilization. It was one of the staple crops in ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) and was cultivated by civilizations such as the Sumerians, Babylonians, and Assyrians. Barley was valued for its ability to grow in diverse climates and its versatility as a food, feed for animals, and raw material for making beer.
The cultivation of barley spread from the Fertile Crescent to other regions of the world over time. It reached ancient Egypt, where it was an important crop for making bread and brewing beer. Barley cultivation also spread to ancient Greece and Rome, where it was used for food, animal feed, and as a currency.
Throughout history, barley remained a staple crop in many cultures and regions. It played a crucial role in the diets of ancient civilizations, medieval Europe, and various Asian countries. Barley was particularly important in colder areas where it could be grown successfully.
Today, barley continues to be cultivated worldwide, with major producers including Russia, Germany, Canada, France, and Australia. It is used for various purposes, including human consumption (as a whole grain, flour, or malted grain), animal feed, and the production of alcoholic beverages such as beer and whiskey.
Barley’s long history and adaptability have led to the development of numerous cultivated varieties and hybrids, each with its own characteristics suited to different agricultural and culinary needs.
- Nutrient-Rich: Barley is rich in essential nutrients, including fiber, vitamins (such as vitamin B-complex, E, and vitamin K), minerals (such as manganese, selenium, copper, and phosphorus), and antioxidants. These nutrients support overall health and well-being.
- Heart Health: Barley contains beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that has been shown to help reduce cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease, so incorporating barley into your diet may support heart health.
- Blood Sugar Control: The fiber content in barley helps slow down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, preventing rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. This can be beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those looking to maintain stable blood sugar levels.
- Digestive Health: Barley is a good source of dietary fiber, which aids in digestion and promotes regular bowel movements. It can help prevent constipation and promote a healthy digestive system.
- Weight Management: The fiber in barley can help promote feelings of fullness and reduce appetite, making it a beneficial addition to a weight management plan.
- Bone Health: Barley is a source of minerals like calcium and phosphorus, which are essential for maintaining healthy bones and teeth.
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Barley contains antioxidants and phytochemicals that have anti-inflammatory properties, potentially reducing the risk of chronic inflammation-related conditions.
- Improved Gut Health: Barley contains prebiotic fibers that promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, supporting a healthy gut microbiome.
- Cancer Prevention: Some studies suggest that the fiber and antioxidant content of barley may contribute to a reduced risk of certain types of cancer, particularly colorectal cancer.
- Choose Whole Barley: When buying barley, opt for whole barley rather than processed or pearled barley. Whole barley retains the bran and germ, which contain most of the nutrients and fiber.
- Look for Freshness: Check the packaging or bulk bins for the expiration date or the packaging date to ensure freshness. Avoid purchasing barley that has been sitting on the shelves for a long time.
- Check for Purity: Ensure that the barley you buy is free from impurities, such as dirt, debris, or insects. Look for clean and uniform grains.
- Consider Organic: If possible, choose organic barley to minimize exposure to pesticides and chemicals.
- Store in a Cool, Dry Place: Transfer barley to an airtight container, such as a glass jar or a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. Keep it in a cool, dry, and dark pantry or cupboard away from direct sunlight, heat, and moisture.
- Avoid Moisture: Moisture can cause barley to spoil or develop mold. Make sure the storage container is moisture-proof and keep it away from areas prone to humidity, such as the kitchen sink or near the stove.
- Use Within a Year: While barley can generally be stored for a long time, it’s best to use it within a year for optimal freshness and flavor. Over time, the quality of barley can deteriorate, and it may take longer to cook.
- Inspect for Spoilage: Before using barley, check for any signs of spoilage, such as a musty or off smell, mold growth, or insect infestation. Discard any barley that appears damaged or compromised.
- Consider Refrigeration: If you live in a particularly hot and humid climate or if you have a large quantity of barley that you won’t use within a year, you can store it in the refrigerator to extend its shelf life. Place the barley in a sealed container or airtight bag to prevent the absorption of odors from other foods.
1 cup pearl barley
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups vegetable broth
1 can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)
- Rinse the barley under cold water and set it aside.
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Sauté for about 5 minutes until the vegetables are slightly softened.
- Add the rinsed barley to the pot and stir it for a minute to coat it with the vegetables.
- Pour in the vegetable broth and diced tomatoes. Add the dried thyme, salt, and pepper.
- Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer for about 40-45 minutes until the barley is tender.
- Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning if needed. If the soup is too thick, you can add more vegetable broth or water.
- Serve the barley vegetable soup hot, garnished with fresh parsley.
1 cup cooked barley
1 cucumber, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped Salt and pepper to taste
- In a large bowl, combine the cooked barley, diced cucumber, diced red bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, red onion, and Kalamata olives.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the fresh lemon juice, olive oil, minced garlic, chopped parsley, salt, and pepper to make the dressing.
- Pour the dressing over the barley and vegetable mixture. Toss well to coat all the ingredients with the dressing.
- Crumble the feta cheese over the salad and gently toss again.
- Let the salad sit for about 15-20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together.
- Serve the Mediterranean barley salad chilled as a refreshing side dish or light lunch option.