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What is barley? Barley Types and Forms

Barley may well be the world's oldest cultivated grain

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Cooked and dried barley for recipes

© 2010 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.

What is barley?

Barley (also called groats) is botanically known as Hordeum vulgare, and is believed to originate in western Asia or Ethiopia. Dating back to the stone age, barley is still considered one of the top five cereal grains in the world. Only ten percent of barley is used as human food, while a full third is used for brewing malt beverages, including beer and whiskey. However, the majority of harvest barley is used for livestock feed. Barley is also a prime ingredient in the making of one variety of the popular Japanese condiment called miso.

Barley Types - Forms of Barley

Pearl barley is by far the most popular form of barley in the United States. Extensive processing removes the two outer hulls along with the bran layer resulting in uniformly-sized, ivory grains with very little fiber. This processing makes it less chewy to the bite, but it also removes a vast majority of the barley's inherent nutrition. Its flavor is mild and nutty, and it cooks in 30 to 45 minutes.

Rolled or flaked barley is similar to rolled oats and is used as a cereal.

Barley flour (also known as barley meal) has a low gluten content which results in a low-rise, so it is often combined with higher-gluten flours when used for leavened breads that need to rise.

Barley grits are toasted, ground barley grains used as a cereal or cooked side dish.

Hulled barley (also known as whole-wheat barley) has only the outer layer removed, leaving the bran layer intact. It is extremely high in fiber and nutrition, with a pronouced flavor that makes the toothy workout worthwhile. This form requires the longest cooking time.

Scotch barley has been husked, then coarsely ground. It takes a long cooking time to become tender.

Quick barley is pearl barley that has been steamed and dried. It will cook up the fastest, usually in less than 15 minutes.

More About Barley and Barley Recipes

What is barley? Barley Types
Barley Storage, Cooking Tips, and Measures
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Cooked and dried barley Photo © 2010 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.

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