Care of Laura Wright
Barley is the oldest domesticated grain in the entire world. It’s been cultivated for ten thousand years! This nutty, chewy, satisfying food is delicious in so many ways. Typically enjoyed in soups throughout the colder months, its heartiness fortifies and warms us up. Definitely an economical and nutritional superstar on that front. Its application isn’t limited to soup alone though. You can add soaked barley to your steel cut oats for a little variation, make it risotto style for a classy dinner, grind it into flour for a fibre boost in your cookies or toss it into a lovely grain salad like I’ve done in the recipe below.
Pot vs Pearl: You will generally find two types of barley available in stores. If you are concerned about health properties and prefer whole grains in your diet, reach for the “pot” variety. These grains have only had their tough, outer husk removed. While pearl barley certainly cooks faster, it lacks the nutrition of the grain in its whole form because an additional two layers (the bran and endosperm) are polished off. You may also appreciate the more pronounced toasted and nutty flavour that pot barley has to offer. Look for it in health food stores or bulk food sections.
Holy Fibre!: 1 cup of cooked pot barley contains a whopping 13 grams of fibre. That’s almost half of the daily recommended intake. Its insoluble fiber provides food for the friendly bacteria in the large intestine, promoting overall colon health. Insoluble fiber can also play a vital role in reducing the amount of LDL cholesterol produced by the liver. Consumption of pot barley has also been shown to assist with blood sugar regulation up to 10 hours post-meal, more so than similar grains like wheat and rye.
Selenium Surprise: Pot barley is also a very good source of selenium, a vital antioxidant and trace mineral. 1 cup cooked provides 52% of the daily value, which is impressive considering how tricky it can be to obtain. This mineral is a very important component of overall health, protecting the immune system by preventing the formation of free radicals, supporting pancreatic function, inhibiting tumor growth and cancer prevention.
Soak, Cook and Save the Planet: If you plan on enjoying barley in the near future, make sure you soak the grains overnight to dramatically reduce cooking time (like by half). After soaking 1 cup of pot barley, cook it in 3 cups of water on the stovetop over medium-high heat for 35-40 minutes. And here’s a cool thing you can do for the environment and your body: re-use the soaking water! Drain the barley over a bowl to collect the soaking water, top up to 3 cups with fresh if need be and go from there. You’ll preserve more of the nutrient content and save water all in one move.