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.


Other names: pearl barley, malted barley
Translations: Mieži, Miežiai, Orz, Ječam, Lúa mạch, Jęczmień, Gerst, जौ, Cevada, Ячмень, Κριθάρι, الشعير, 보리, Ječmen, Jelai, 大麦, Ordi, Ječmen, Jačmeň, Orzo, שעורה, Korn, Јечам, 大麦, Orge, Gerste, Byg, Bygg, Cebada, Ячмінь, Ohra, Ечемик

Physical Description

Barley resembles wheat berries, though lighter in color.

Colors: pale brown, golden

Tasting Notes

Flavors: sweet
Mouthfeel: Chewy, Earthy, Grainy
Food complements: Soups and stews, Beef, Bread
Wine complements: Red wine, Cabernet savignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, White wine
Beverage complements: Milk, Tea, Beer
Substitutes: Arborio, Or carnaroli rice, Orzo pasta, Buckwheat groats, Scotch barley, Barley grits

Selecting and Buying

Seasonality: january, february, march, april, may, june, july, august, september, opctober, november, december
Choosing: Barley is generally available in its pearled, hulled and flaked form. It is available prepackaged as well as in bulk containers. Just as with any other food that you may purchase in the bulk section, make sure that the bins containing the barley are covered and that the store has a good product turnover so as to ensure its maximal freshness. Whether purchasing barley in bulk or in a packaged container, make sure that there is no evidence of moisture.
Buying: Buy prepackaged barley in most natural food stores
Procuring: Nutritious, delicious and easy to cultivate, barley is a common sweet grain with loads of health benefits and a variety of purposes. Barley takes little time and energy, grows quickly and is quite cheap. Even black thumbs can successfully sprout this wholesome grain.

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.


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.


Barley is recognized as one of the very first crops to be domesticated for human consumption. It remains one of the major cereal crops grown in the world: barley is grown on every continent on which crops are grown. It is well adapted to diverse environmental conditions and thus it is produced across a broader geographic distribution than most other cereals. Relative to other cereal crops, barley ranks fourth in total grain production.

History: Along with wheat, barley was one of the first crops to be domesticated by humans and thus it played an important role in the emergence of agriculture in the Old World. There is rich evidence of barley in the archaeological record from numerous sites throughout the Near and Middle East, supporting the notion that it was a common and important crop in ancient times. It is likely that barley was already domesticated and being cultivated as early as ten thousand years ago, though wild barley was likely being harvested as a food long before this. Further, early written records from various cultures bear frequent mention of barley, as does the Bible, reinforcing the fact that barley was an important crop. Indeed, barley remained an important human food crop for many millennia, but it was gradually supplanted by wheat. The rapid spread of agriculture from the Near East into Europe and Asia led to the broad dissemination of barley and its cultivation. In more recent history, barley was brought to the New World as far back as the explorations of Columbus. Barley was introduced to the eastern United States early in the seventeenth century, and the west coast of the Americas in the eighteenth century.



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