Barley: history and properties of this cereal

Second blog with traditional cereals, today we talk about barley. Where does this cereal come from?

The first traces of barley date back to the Neolithic, almost 12000 years ago. It was grown in that area called the Fertile Crescent from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf. The barley (Hordeum vulgare) is part of the family of the graminaceae, but is earlier than the wheat and well adapts to different climates. Barley adapts well to the heat and does not fear the drought.

This cereal was used in the time of the Babylonians who used it to produce beer; later the Greeks and Romans made extensive use of it to make bread and was one of the basic ingredients of many soups. Known for the energy it provided, before sending to fight, gladiators used to feed on barley soup.

Unfortunately, even in this case when wheat arrived, barley, like many other cereals, was supplanted and until the Middle Ages became food for the poorest.

How many types of barley do we know?

Barley is a strong plant that easily adapts to different temperatures and thanks to its peculiarity of a short cycle, it can be planted in autumn in warm climates and in spring in cold climates.

We know both the zootechnical varieties and different varieties, which are ideal for producing the beer from which the grain is obtained, used in addition to the preparation of malt, in the production of whisky and malted flour and barley coffee. But how many types are there?

Wholewheat barley, husked and pearl. What are the differences between those varieties? 

Whole barley: the grain remains intact and so all nutritional properties remain unaltered. It needs a very long soak, about 24 hours, as well as a long cooking, about an hour and a half. There are those who call the whole barley with the name of barley world, but the world is slightly different, it is a quality of ancient whole barley from which the lump is removed. This barley grows in Marche region (Italy) and is not always easy to find, but it is worth looking for.

World barley or husked barley: it is subjected to a mild refining process; in this way it maintains almost unchanged nutritional properties. Just a one-night soak and then in 45 minutes it is cooked. It is one of our favorited barleys, a semi-wholegrain.

Finally, the pearl barley also called white barley, is the barley for when you are in a hurry, in 40 minutes it is ready on the table. Let’s not be afraid of cooking times, if we want, we can reduce them with the pressure cooker: 50 minutes for barley world, 40 for shelled, 30 for pearl.

What does barley contain? Properties of barley:

Barley is one of the cereals with a low glycaemic index. It differs from other cereals for the content of soluble fibres. It is a good remineralizer for the bones, emollient for the digestive system and for the intestine. Rich in silicon is an anticholesterolemic cereal and also recommended in case of diabetes or obesity.

Precisely because of its properties, let’s not limit ourselves to using barley in grain but also turn it into flour. Barley flour is very rich in fiber, 13.5% compared to 8.4% of a whole wheat flour.

So, choose a good grain of organic barley and then a grain grinder. Faribon is the electric grain grinder that in one step separates bran and flour and thus keeps intact the nutritional properties of barley and allows us to always have a fresh flour if necessary.

Barley flour is very good in bread making, but having a broken and uneven gluten it is necessary to mix it with wheat flour.

We suggest you this recipe with barley flour: Apulian Friselle, a real deliciousness.

Thanks to Timo and Lenticchie for this insight.



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