What is Naked Barley?
Naked barley is a type of barley in which the husks easily shed from the grains. Because the grain falls from the ear without the need for processing, naked barley is suitable for milling and eating right from harvest. As such, it is a natural wholegrain with a range of culinary applications. It is excellent for baking and recommended for cookies, cakes, muffins, pancakes and quick breads. Like rye, barley does not have the gluten levels required to raise bread sufficiently so it is usually added to wheat flour for baking leavened bread where it adds valuable fibre, nutrients and flavour. It is eaten whole in stews, soups and salads.
Qualities of Naked Barley
Source of complex carbohydrates. Barley has a far lower glycemic index than most grains meaning it provides a slow release energy source.
Higher protein content than wheat.
More nutritious than processed hulled barley as the process, known as ‘pearling’, damages the embryo of the grain.
Resilient crop for sustainable agriculture. Barley requires much less fertility than wheat. It can cope with less water and is not bothered by wet summers either. The best way to promote the growing of sustainable and nutritious crops is to eat them!
- Can also be eaten as a sprout or grown for barleygrass juice similarly to wheatgrass.
History of Barley
Barley (Hordeum vulgare) was one of the first grains which humans domesticated in the fertile crescent and has been cultivated as far back as 10,000 years ago. The hull of regular barley is not digestible so must be removed by processing. It is thought that the genetic mutation which created the easily de-hulling, i.e. ‘naked’, feature occurred 8,000 years ago in modern Iran and quickly spread from there to Europe. It was a major crop during the Bronze and Iron Ages.
Naked barley was largely displaced by the arrival of bread wheat which allowed leavened, or raised, breads to be made. From then on, barley was mostly used for animal feed and as a malting grain for brewing. Hulled varieties are considered better for both these purposes (as naked barley has lower yields and germination rates) so naked varieties fell out of favour and cultivation. Naked barley varieties, like naked oats, are making a comeback as they have features which make them useful for more sustainable agriculture practices.