Barley is a cereal grain and is commonly used in beer and whiskey. It is also a popular ingredient in health food, as well as soups and stews. It was one of the first domestic grains and was originally popular in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Israel, and Lebanon. Beer made from barley was one of the first beverages developed by people during the Neolithic period and the grain has also been used as currency. Today, Germany and France are the world’s main producers of barley.
Barley is one of the main ingredients in livestock feed in North America. When beef is marketed as “grass fed,” it means it did not consume barley, except in instances where it grazed areas where barley naturally grows. Barley contains eight essential amino acids and is known for regulating blood sugar. In addition to its use in alcoholic beverages, it is also prepared as a tea and used as a coffee substitute. As a matter of fact, Italians enjoy barley coffee as a non-caffeinated alternative to traditional coffee. Unfortunately, barley contains gluten and is not recommended for those with celiac disease or other types of gluten intolerance.
Barley is very easy to prepare and can be soaked overnight or prepared dry. Soaking the barley creates a faster cooking time, so if you want a quick meal that includes barley, it is best to soak it overnight in batches. Barley should be soaked in a water bath of two cups per one cup of barley. After soaking, or if you did not soak, rinse the barley and remove any debris (as you would with dry beans).
How to Cook Barley
To cook your barley you will boil it in water, broth, or stock. Use two and a half to three cups of liquid per cup of barley. Place the liquid in a pot and bring to a rolling boil. Add the barley and lightly stir the grain and water together. Cover the lid and simmer on low for approximately 15 minutes for soaked barley and 30 to 40 minutes for dry barley. The grain will have soaked in the water and expanded slightly, similar to rice or couscous. You can add vegetables or meat to the barley once it is cooked. If you are adding barley to soups or stews, add dry barley without pre-cooking it. Pre-cooking the barley will create a mushy mixture in your final dish.
Barley can be served as a side dish or main dish, and is a popular vegetarian and vegan option. It can also be used in baked goods and is often served for breakfast. Popular recipes include Barley-Lentil Stew, Barley Pancakes, Barley Pilaf, Barley Tuna Casserole, and Barley Burgers.