Super Food Grain - Barley
Barley botanically known as Hordeum vulgare is the fourth most important cereal crop in the world after wheat, maize, and rice. Barley may be one of the oldest grains on earth. In ancient times barley played a much greater role than that of wheat as it is so adaptable to a variety of soils and can even grow in soil high in salinity. In Bible times, barley was much more widely cultivated than now and was the main food of the poor.
Barley began to lose favor when people discovered that bread made with wheat could offer a superior loaf because of the gluten-producing properties of wheat protein which makes the bread became lighter and able to be kept longer. The importance of barley as a food crop began to change about the sixteenth century when farmers in the Middle East began growing wheat for food and barley as a fodder crop.
Unfortunately , barley grain is mostly used as feed for animals and malt which is used in whisky and beer production. Barley can be found rarely on regular stores, it is more likely to be available at health food stores.
Health benefits of barley
Barley grain is an excellent source of soluble and insoluble dietary fibre, both of which may benefit gastrointestinal health. In particular, it contains large amounts of beta glucans which reduce bad cholesterol level and the risk of coronary heart disease. They also improve lipid metabolism and reduce the glycaemic index which aid in weight loss. A good thing is that in barley, the beta-glucans are found throughout the entire kernel. In other grains beta-glucans are concentrated in the outer bran layer and can easily be lost in processing.
Barley is also an excellent source of selenium, and a good source of copper, manganese, niacin, and phosphorus. The high selenium content along with the high fiber content makes barley a powerful cancer-fighting grain and protects the cells from free-radical damage and also aids the thyroid in producing the thyroid hormone necessary for a good health.
Barley provides a good source of energy since carbohydrates constitute 80 percent of the barley kernel. Barley has been considered more strengthening than other grains. In the Roman times, the gladiators were called "hordearii" (which means “barley eaters”) because they were fed a barley diet before going to fight.
Cooking with barley
Barley like rice is a delicious base for soups, stews, salads, curries, casseroles and desserts.
Barley flour adds a nutty and appealing flavor to any bread recipe. Barley bread is almost nonexistent on regular market - it has to be baked at home. Using just a small amount of barley fibre in bread can improve the health benefits of a loaf of wheat bread. Adding few barley flakes on the bread dough will bring a unique texture, makes it even more healthy and will taste better. Barley flour can be also used for making other baked goods as pancakes, biscuits or cookies.
Barley flour has a weaker gluten than wheat flour so when making yeast breads you can replace up to 25% of the wheat flour with barley flour and up to 50% of the wheat flour with barley flour in cookies and quick breads.
Barley flour is also used as a thickener in soups and sauces.
Barley flakes looks almost identical to rolled oats and can be used like rolled oats in making cooked breakfast cereal. Barley flakes are also a perfect ingredient for granola.
Recipes with barley:
Did you know
1. Barley appears to be more effective in lowering blood cholesterol than other whole grains.
2.Barley is high in beta-glucans. Beta-glucans reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and can lower cholesterol.
3. Barley also contains insoluble fiber, which reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes and colon cancer.
4.With less than one gram of fat per serving, barley is a virtually fat-free food and is also cholesterol-free.
5. Roman gladiators in their diet also ate barley for strength and stamina.
6. Barley is available in numerous forms, including hulled barley kernels, flakes, pearls, and ground flour.
7. Barley can be served like rice as a side grain to your meat or fish or in salads.
8. Barley bread could reduce obesity levels.