Barley – February Grain of the MonthFebruary’s Grain of the Month is Barley. Each month a diﬀerent whole grain is featured on the Whole Grains Council website We celebrate Valentine’s Day and Heart Health Month in February, which makes it a perfect match for barley. Barley’s eﬀects on your love life are as yet unproven, but studies show strong support for barley’s role in protecting heart health. In fact, since 2005, the U.S. FDA has allowed barley foods to claim that they reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
BARLEY AT A GLANCE
How important is barley to civilization? Aside from its use as food, barley is the root of the English measurement system. In 1324 Edward II of England standardized the inch as equal to “three grains of barley, dry and round, placed end to end lengthwise.” The foot, the yard, the mile, and all other English measurements followed on.
While inches and feet have given way to centimeters and meters in most of the world, barley (Hordeum Vulgare L.) is still central to the world’s food supply. In fact, it’s the world’s fourth most important cereal crop after wheat, rice, and corn.
Barley is highest in ﬁber of all the whole grains, with common varieties clocking in at about 17% ﬁber, and some, such as the variety called Prowashonupana barley (marketed by Ardent Mills as Sustagrain), having up to 30% ﬁber! (For comparison, brown rice contains 3.5% ﬁber, corn about 7%, oats 10% and wheat about 12%.) While the ﬁber in most grains is concentrated largely in the outer bran layer, barley’s ﬁber is found throughout the whole grain, which may account for its extraordinarily high levels. But the goodness of whole grains comes from more than ﬁber. Whole grain barley is high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals essential to health, too. However, much of the barley eaten in the U.S. is pearled or pearl barley, which is missing some or all of its bran layer.
As it grows in the ﬁeld, most barley has an inedible hull adhering tightly to the grain kernel. The easiest, quickest way to remove this inedible hull is to scrape (pearl) it oﬀ without worrying too much about how much bran comes oﬀ at the same time. To make sure you’re enjoying true whole grain barley, look for hulled barley (barley where the inedible hull was removed carefully, keeping any bran loss to insigniﬁcant levels) or hulless barley (a diﬀerent variety that grows without a tightly-attached hull). Click here for pictures and descriptions of the diﬀerent forms of barley.
Most of us were introduced to barley as those little white things ﬂoating in our canned soup. If that’s your only experience with barley, you may be surprised to ﬁnd that it’s endlessly versatile. You can cook it as a side dish, such as a barley pilaf; you can bake barley bread; you can enjoy barley porridge for breakfast; and you can even use barley ﬂour to bake your favorite cookies.
While true whole grain barley can take 50-60 minutes to cook, it’s easy to cook a big batch then refrigerate it or freeze it until needed. Or cook it in soups, and enjoy comforting aromas simmering on the stove while you do something else
Source: Whole Grains Council