Barley – An Ancient Grain

August 6, 2022 6:50 pm

While barley is the fourth largest grain crop in the world, few people know much about it.  One of the first grains to be cultivated, it has a variety of uses – from animal feed to beer.  In a testament to how important this crop once was – even the word ‘barn’ originally meant ‘barley-house’.  The wild predecessor of domestic barley still grows all over Western Asia and Northeast Africa.  Interestingly, Tibet was found to be an early center of Barley domestication and it is still heavily consumed there today.

Domesticated varieties can be divided into two main types – two row and six row.  Two Row Barley is closer to the wild type and has a lower protein content.  This is the main type of barley used to make malt for beer.  Six Row Barley is mainly used for animal feed, although there are exceptions.  Among these are also Hull-less or with Hull varieties.  The benefit of the hull-less varieties is that no extra steps need to be taken after harvest to remove the hull. This means that all the flavor and nutrition is left intact.

Eating whole grain barley can lower cholesterol and improve regulation of blood-sugar.  While barley does contain gluten, some people with gluten intolerance are able to consume it without the adverse effects of other gluten containing products.

The barley we use is grown locally by Next Step Produce or Purple Mountain Organics.  It is a Hull-less Ethiopian variety with a tinge of blue, known as Ethiopian Blue Barley.  We put it in soups, pasta, and bread.  We also make a non-diastatic malt powder out of it to add to some of our breads for flavor and color.  Malt powder is one of the things that gives Bagels their brown color.

One of our favorite things to do with barley is to grind it and put it in pasta to serve with seafood.  We buy our grains whole and grind them fresh whenever we use it, another step that leaves the flavor and nutrition intact.  The flavor of Ethiopian Blue Barley just seems to go perfectly seafood.


Barley Creste Di Gallo with Shrimp and Tomatoes

  • One package of our Barley Creste Di Gallo
  • 8oz Shrimp, cut in half
  • 2c diced fresh tomatoes
  • 1tbs Italian parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/2c dry white wine
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs EVOO
  • 1 tsp Calabrian chilies, finely diced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tbs cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • Sea Salt, to taste

  1. Bring 2qts water and 1 tbs of sea salt to a rolling boil.
  2. Add the pasta and cook for about 3 minutes.
  3. In another pan, heat the EVOO and garlic on medium heat.
  4. When the garlic is golden brown, carefully add the chilies and white wine.
  5. Let the wine reduce completely, and add the shrimp and tomatoes.
  6. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add the pasta along with 3 tbs of the pasta water.
  7. Stir gently while cooking for another minute.
  8. Add the parsley, butter, and lemon juice.
  9. Cook another minute or so while stirring gently, until the butter melts and emulsifies with the cooking liquid.
  10. Check the seasoning with salt, but it shouldn’t need much.
  11. Serve and enjoy while hot!