One of the oldest cereals in existence is barley. Originally (perhaps) from north-eastern Africa and western Asia, today it is cultivated almost all over the world and is highly appreciated for its many nutritional properties.
Rich in B vitamins, barley is able to fortify nerve cells, prevent lung and cardiovascular diseases, and keep appetite at bay. Being also with a low glycemic index, it manages not to particularly raise the level of sugar in the blood and also helps to introduce minerals to the bones, which is why its consumption is recommended for children.
Thanks to its many benefits, Hippocrates recommended it for every type of disease while the ancient Greeks made it a staple of their diet.
Curiosity: Do you know why the Communion host is so thin and has such a flat shape? Certainly, this is not by chance, in fact, the first Christians used to consume bread prepared with barley flour, not leavened.
There are three types of existing barley: pearl, hulled, and wholemeal.
Pearl barley is undoubtedly the best known and most used, easy to find in any type of supermarket. It has the advantage of cooking relatively quickly but also the disadvantage of losing most of its nutritional properties during refining.
The hulled barley can be bought in the most well-stocked supermarkets or in organic food stores. Unlike the pearly one, it manages to preserve a large part of the original properties of its grain.
Whole barley is practically very rare to find. There are very few who produce it and it is a real shame because this type of barley, in terms of food, is by far the best among the three.
Before it can be cooked, the barley needs a soaking time that varies according to the type of cereal to be prepared.
The pearl barley, not having the grain covered by the skin, does not require soaking and can be prepared in about 30 minutes.
The hulled barley needs a minimum soaking time of 6 hours and is cooked in about 45 minutes.
Whole barley, on the other hand, is the one that requires soaking for 24 hours and cooking for about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
In Italy this cereal is used particularly in Friuli Venezia Giulia and Trentino Alto Adige, the protagonist of numerous soups and tasty soups to be prepared using the pearled one. If used instead of rice, barley can be the protagonist in tasty and fresh salads or particular barley, to be prepared like the more classic risottos.
Combining it with vegetables, legumes, and vegetables is not at all difficult, in fact, it can be easily combined with mushrooms, peas, lentils, beans, spinach, courgettes, and much more, in hot or cold dishes. Those who love aromatic herbs and spices can think of preparing it with basil, sage, rosemary, saffron, turmeric, or curry, the result will be amazing!
Barley is sold in a practical packaging and to keep it at its best, it must simply be kept in a cool place, away from light. Once opened, however, it will be advisable to place it in an airtight jar.