The Benefits of Barley

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Think barley is just for soup? You're in for a delicious surprise! A winner in the world of grains, jam-packed with nutrition. It fills our beer bottles and feeds our animals. With a delicious, satisfying nutty flavour and chewy texture, it lends itself to hot and cold dishes alike.


One of things I always found most confusing is what type of barley to buy. Whole-grain barley requires considerable soaking and cooking but contains the most nutrients and texture. However, the most popular type for cooking is Pearl or “Hulled Barley” that has the inedible, fibrous outer hull removed by a steam process or polish known as "pearling," yet it still considered a whole grain.


Eating whole grain barley can help regulate blood sugar for up to 10 hours after a meal. The reason being is that barley contains both soluble and insoluble fibres. The insoluble fibre slows the absorption of glucose into the blood stream, which produces a feeling of fullness that also may help control weight. It is also low on the Glycemic Index. Foods low in Glycemic Index assist in the prevention of type 2 diabetes and assist in blood sugar and blood cholesterol control.


Barley is one of the richest sources of dietary fiber. Adding whole grains into your daily diet will have tremendous benefits for you and your family's health. Unlike most other grains, barley retains its kernel even when cooked, having a pasta-like texture. It is a great alternative for rice and potatoes.


Pearled barley takes 45 minutes to cook. Whole grain barley takes longer to cook -- about 2 hours -- but exceeds the pearled variety in nutritional value. When cooking barley for salads, treat it like pasta. Boil in salted water until slightly tender or ‘al dente,’ with a little bite to it. Strain and rinse in cold water. Barley can be made into risottos or pilafs or added to soups and stews.


Greek Barley Salad


• 1 cup pearl barley


• 3 cups water


• 1 cup finely chopped green onion


• 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley


• 2 medium tomatoes finely chopped


• 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped


• 1 cup of crumbled feta cheese (optional)


• 2 teaspoon Kosher Salt


• ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


• 1/3 cup olive oil


• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


• 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar


• 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano


In medium saucepan bring water and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil.


Add barley and return to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed.


Combine olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, oregano, remaining salt, and pepper. Pour over hot cooked barley. Cool to room temperature. Gently stir in onions, parsley, tomatoes, bell pepper and feta cheese. Taste to adjust seasoning and serve salad chilled or at room temperature.


Yield: 6 servings


Barley Mushroom Pilaf


• 1/2 cup sliced fresh button mushrooms


• 2 tablespoons olive oil


• 1 package (14 g) dried shiitake or dried porcini mushrooms


• 1 cup of boiling water


• 1 onion, finely chopped


• 2 cloves garlic, finely minced


• 2 cups pearl barley


• 3 cups chicken stock


• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


• 2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese (optional)


Steep dry mushrooms in a cup of boiling water and set aside for 15 minutes. Place olive oil in a heated saucepan, add onions and garlic and sauté over medium heat until slightly softened. Add mushrooms and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes. Add barley, dry mushrooms, strained mushroom liquid, stock, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. Let stand covered for 5 minutes and stir in parsley and parmesan, taste to adjust seasoning.


Yield: 6-8 servings.

Related articles: (chef margie arosh, barley, Greek Barley Salad, Barley Mushroom Pilaf)
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