This is a widely grown, hardy cereal grain and member of the grass family. In recent years it is frequently used as cattle food. Barley is also important for the beer and whisky industires. The husk is often removed from the grain which is used to make cereals and thicken soups and stews.
Barley resembles wheat berries, though lighter in color.
Selecting and Buying
Purchase or obtain barley seed. Your local hardware or farm supply store will carry varieties of barley. Buy certified seed that is weed-free and reputed to have high germination.
Select a level area of your yard, garden or field that has good moisture, high oxygen. Do not plant seeds where previous attempts to grow barley have failed. Diseases that are fatal to barley may still be in the ground.
Plant your barley seeds. Barley can be grown in spring or winter, and tends to create the best results when planted early in the season. For winter barley, October is the best time to plant. For spring barley, plant in January. Barley grows best in cool ground--ideal temperatures hover right around freezing. Arrange the seeds so you have about 20-25 barley plants per square foot of space.
Wait for the barley to sprout. Barley is one of the fastest growing grains, sometimes sprouting in 24 hours. Unfortunately, the time frame from planting to harvest is 40-55 days.
Weed the area if necessary. If you have planted a large amount of barley, it may be necessary to purchase an herbicide; however, if you're just growing a small amount, you can handle the weeding by hand.
Cut the barley. Barley has reached full harvest (or maturity) when it's golden in color and brittle. Barley moves easily in wind and resembles a wheat field. After you cut the barley plants, your next move depends entirely on your intended use. If you plan on using it as animal feed, chances are you have a machine to help with the cutting. If you are malting it (for beer, other alcohol and malted foods), it also may be a mass production for which you have helpful tools. For human food, cut the barley plants manually.
TIPS and WARNINGS:
Plant your seeds carefully and abundantly. Barley has a hard time recovering when there's a low seed rate.
Germination of the barley seeds is dependent on moist and oxygen-rich soil.
Winter barley needs colder temperatures to grow well, while Spring barley is much more versatile. Winter plants will sprout with multiple long stems and flower heads, while Spring plants have no seed heads.
"Smut" is dangerous to barley. Smutted barley has been attacked and may not grow well. Make sure your barley seeds have been coated in a fungicide or "seed dressing" for their protection.
Preparation and Use
After rinsing, add one part barley to three and a half parts boiling water or broth. After the liquid has returned to a boil, turn down the heat, cover and simmer. Pearled barley should be simmered for about one hour, while hulled barley should be cooked for about 90 minutes.
Conserving and Storing
Store barley in a tightly covered glass container in a cool, dry place. Barley can also be stored in the refrigerator during periods of warmer weather.