19 Recipes That’ll Make You Love Barley

Barley Recipes That Will Make You Love This Unsexy Grain

Natually Ella

Barley isn’t the most sexy grain, but who wants a sexy grain anyway? In the height of winter especially, we want a grain that will warm us like a very unsexy snuggy and nourish us like an even unsexier cup of Jewish penicillin. Barley is wholesome, and we like it that way.

Barley is also incredibly versatile. Beer isn’t the only thing this grain has going for it. It holds up well in soups and adds a nice texture and heartiness to salads. Barley also makes a perfect substitute for rice or risottos in most dishes, offering a pleasant nutty flavor. Did we mention it’s also incredibly healthy, too? It’s even been called a superfood. This is a grain you could take home to meet the parents.

Here are 19 recipes that will convince you to give barley a chance this winter, and then some.

[Catergory Grain, Recipe]

Planting Vegetables in California, a Woman Finds Her Korean Roots | The Plate

For a Korean girl adopted by an American family at five-months old, the love affair with food started with the perilla leaf.

Better known to some as the sesame or shiso leaf, Kristyn Leach found the prickly green and purple leaf in a Korean seed book and fell hard. And she credits the experience with inspiring her to launch Namu, a California farm specializing in Asian vegetables.

For those who have eaten it, perilla is unmistakable. It tastes like something between mint and spinach, and you either love it or loathe it. Koreans will usually pickle it or wrap meat in it for Korean barbeque. Leach likened perilla, the first plants she grew, to something like an awakening, or a reincarnation. “The plant remembered me before I remembered it,” she says.

Leach was no stranger to vegetables or farming. Growing up in the community gardens of New York with blue-collar parents, Leach learned two lessons to live by that would end up defining her career: Be of service and grow food.

As part of a white American family, Leach didn’t have Korean family recipes or even know what Korean produce was, aside from the occasional Asian pear or odd cabbage from the market. By teaching herself about Korean seeds and produce, she learned who she was and opened up a door to her sense of identity and heritage. This, she says, empowered her to start Namu farm.

To make it happen, Leach started small. Five years ago, she subleased one acre of land in the hills of San Francisco from Sage, a non-profit in Berkeley, California. There, she was exposed to a wide variety of produce and found many farmers willing to show her the way.

In addition to wanting to farm Korean vegetables, Leach also wanted to try the natural farming methods used in Korea, i.e. creating a no-till, biodynamic and organic farm; food you could trace back to its source.

This type of farming is not for the faint of heart or will. Succeeding takes years, but it was something she was determined to do the way her Korean ancestors had done, to “have a place within nature, and not one that’s dominating it.”

When Leach first began growing perilla, she brought some to chef Dennis Lee at Namu Gaji, an acclaimed modern Korean restaurant in San Francisco owned by Lee and his two brothers. California is home to a huge Korean population and in recent years Korean food and chefs have become much more mainstream. Kimchi and bi bim bap are showing up on menus around the U.S., now, but not so much back then. Lee was so impressed with Leach’s leaves, he asked her to grow chilies for Namu Gaji and soon after, Namu the farm was born. (Namu means “tree” in Korean, and emphasizes the branches of their collaboration.) Now Namu produces more produce than Namu Gaji needs—beans, peanuts, and more. Extra produce goes to Korean community centers and an Asian women’s shelter in the bay area. Recently, Namu has partnered with the Kitazawa Seed Company, the largest distributor of Asian seeds outside of Asia, to release Korean chili seeds with plans to sell a new heirloom crop each year.

Last fall Leach traveled to Korea for the first time to find seeds to bring back home. She worked on a farm and met Korean farmers, including Ms. Pyeon, an heirloom preservationist and farmer in Joellanam-do. They bonded over natural farming practices and preserving seeds, including the perilla leaf. Pyeon has three different varieties including the stone perilla, the wild ancestor of the perilla plants Leach grows.

Every September, Koreans celebrate Chuseok—think Korean Thanksgiving but over three days. It commemorates the year’s harvest and thanks the ancestors. This year at Namu, Korean drummers gathered at the farm to sow the cover crop seed and finish with a big feast. Leach says of the experience, “I felt more Korean than ever.”

Jeanne Modderman is a photo producer for National Geographic’s photo community Your Shot with a love for storytelling, art and good food. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Health Benefits of Barley | The Whole Grains Council

Barley Controls Blood Sugar Better
Dutch researchers used a crossover study with 10 healthy men to compare the effects of cooked barley kernels and refined wheat bread on blood sugar control. The men ate one or the other of these grains at dinner, then were given a high glycemic index breakfast (50g of glucose) the next morning for breakfast. When they had eaten the barley dinner, the men had 30% better insulin sensitivity the next morning after breakfast.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2010; 91(1):90-7. Epub 2009 Nov 4.

Barley Lowers Glucose Levels

White rice, the staple food in Japan, is a high glycemic index food. Researchers at the University of Tokushima found that glucose levels were lower after meals when subjects switched from rice to barley.
Rinsho Byori. August 2009; 57(8):797-805

Barley Beta-Glucan Lowers Glycemic Index

Scientists at the Functional Food Centre at Oxfod Brookes University in England fed 8 healthy human subjects chapatis (unleavened Indian flatbreads) made with either 0g, 2g, 4g, 6g or 8g of barley beta-glucan fiber. They found that all amounts of barley beta-glucan lowered the glycemic index of the breads, with 4g or more making a significant difference.
Nutrition Research, July 2009; 29(7):4806

Insulin Response better with Barley Beta-Glucan

In a crossover study involving 17 obese women at increased risk for insulin resistance, USDA scientists studied the effects of 5 different breakfast cereal test meals on subjects’ insulin response. They found that consumption of 10g of barley beta-glucan significantly reduced insulin response.
European Journal of Nutrition, April 2009; 48(3):170-5. Epub 2009 Feb 5.

Barley Beats Oats in Glucose Response Study

USDA researchers fed barley flakes, barley flour, rolled oats, oat flour, and glucose to 10 overweight middle-aged women, then studied their bodies’ responses. They found that peak glucose and insulin levels after barley were significantly lower than those after glucose or oats. Particle size did not appear to be a factor, as both flour and flakes had similar effects.
Journal of the American College of Nutrition, June 2005; 24(3):182-8

Barley Reduces Blood Pressure

For five weeks, adults with mildly high cholesterol were fed diets supplemented with one of three whole grain choices: whole wheat/brown rice, barley, or whole wheat/brown rice/barley. All three whole grain combinations reduced blood pressure, leading USDA researchers to conclude that “in a healthful diet, increasing whole grain foods, whether high in soluble or insoluble fiber, can reduce blood pressure and may help to control weight.”
Journal of the American Dietetic Association, September 2006; 106(9):1445-9

Barley Lowers Serum Lipids

University of Connecticut researchers reviewed 8 studies evaluating the lipid-reducing effects of barley. They found that eating barley significantly lowered total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and triglycerides, but did not appear to significantly alter HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
Annals of Family Medicine, March-April 2009; 7(2):157-63

Cholesterol and Visceral Fat Decrease with Barley

A randomized double-blind study in Japan followed 44 men with high cholesterol for twelve weeks, as the men ate either a standard white-rice diet or one with a mixture of rice and high-beta-glucan pearl barley. Barley intake significantly reduced serum cholesterol and visceral fat, both accepted markers of cardiovascular risk.
Plant Foods and Human Nutrition
, March 2008; 63(1):21-5. Epub 2007 Dec 12.

Barley Significantly Improves Lipids

25 adults with mildly high cholesterol were fed whole grain foods containing 0g, 3g or 6g of barley beta-glucan per day for five weeks, with blood samples taken twice weekly. Total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol significantly decreased with the addition of barley to the diet.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, November 2004; 80(5):1185-93

Barley Pasta Lowers Cholesterol

University of California researchers fed two test meals to 11 healthy men, both containing beta-glucan. One meal was a high-fiber (15.7g) barley pasta and the other was  lower-fiber (5.0g) wheat pasta. The barley pasta blunted insulin response, and four hours after the meal, barley-eaters had significantly lower cholesterol concentration than wheat-eaters.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 1999; 69(1):55-63

Barley’s Slow Digestion may help Weight Control

Barley varieties such as Prowashonupana that are especially high in beta-glucan fiber may digest more slowly than standard barley varieties. Researchers at USDA and the Texas Children’s Hospital compared the two and concluded that Prowashonupana may indeed be especially appropriate for obese and diabetic patients.
Journal of Nutrition, September 2002; 132(9):2593-6

Greater Satiety, Fewer Calories Eaten with Barley

In a pilot study not yet published, six healthy subjects ate a 420-calorie breakfast bar after an overnight fast, then at lunch were offered an all-you-can-eat buffet. When subjects ate a Prowashonupana barley bar at breakfast they subsequently ate 100 calories less at lunch than when they ate a traditional granola bar for breakfast.