From field to kitchen

BARLEY IS A delicious, heart-healthy grain that has been farmed for hundred of years and is growing in popularity.

When you see barley in the field, it looks a lot like wheat: it’s a tall grass that produces a head of grain. Also like wheat, it can be ground into flour: barley flour is a common ingredient in breakfast cereals and breads.

Barley can also be eaten as a whole grain, and you’ll find grain barley in two different styles in the grocery store: pearl barley and hulled barley. Hulled barley is considered a whole grain — it has had the tough outer hull removed (this part is inedible), but still has bran and endosperm layers intact. Pearl barley has been polished to remove the bran — it is pale and has a creamy colour. Pearl barley is less chewy and much faster to cook, but it does not have the same health benefits as whole grain hulled barley.

Both pearl barley and hulled barley can be added to soups or other meals (like this month’s Lemon Basil Orzotto recipe). Barley has a rich, nutty flavour, and it is best enjoyed when you take the extra time to cook it in its whole grain form. They’re cooked the same way — simmered in water or stock — but whole grain barley can take up to 25 minutes longer to cook. Both types will yield about three times their volume when cooked; however, the texture is very different. Pearl barley releases starch into its cooking liquid, while hulled barley grains tend to stay separate from each other.

Whole grain barley has many proven health benefits: it can lower cholesterol (a risk factor in heart disease), promotes good digestive health, and it can help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Barley is a source of thiamin, niacin, folate, riboflavin, iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and selenium — all essential vitamins and minerals.

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