recipes wellness sanctuary Mar 24, 2022

What is barley?

Barley is a whole grain, like oats or quinoa, though with none of the cachet of the latter. It’s funny how grains can become ‘fashionable’, isn’t it? The real advantages to barley, over most any other grain, are the health benefits it comes with. Like whole wheat, barley does contain gluten, which is problematic for those who have a gluten intolerance, allergy or Celiac disease. But if you’re not affected by these, barley is definitely worth checking out.

Why I use barley

Barley is mentioned in the hadiths in a few different ways (see History, below for more):

  1. In the form of bread
  2. As a drink (barley water)
  3. In a stew with Swiss chard and no fat

When an ingredient is mentioned that often, I roll up my sleeves and start researching why it is important. The chef in me was eager to test out this food source!

Benefits and history of barley

Barley is a grain that is mentioned frequently in hadiths and not just for its nutritional benefits:

‘Aishah R.A. narrated:
“The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w) did not eat his fill of barley bread on two consecutive days until he was taken (died).” (Graded Sahih, Reference Jami’ at-Tirmidhi 2357)

Narrated ‘Abd Allah b. Abi Awfa:
We went along with the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) while he was fasting. When the sun set, he said to Bilal: Bilal, come down and prepare barley beverage for us. He said: Messenger of Allah, would that you waited for the evening. He said: Come down and prepare barley beverage for us. He said: Messenger of Allah, the say still remains on you (i.e. there remains the brightness of the day). He said: Come down and prepare barley drink for us. So he came down and prepared barley drink. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) drank it and said: When you see that the night approaches from this side, he who fasts has reached the time to break it ; and he pointed to the east with his finger. (Graded Sahih, Reference Sunan Abi Dawud, Book 13, Hadith 2345)

Narrated Sahl bin Sa`d:
We used to be happy on Fridays, for there was an old lady who used to pull out the roots of Silq and put it in a cooking pot with some barley. When we had finished the prayer, we would visit her and she would present that dish before us. So we used to be happy on Fridays because of that, and we never used to take our meals or have a midday nap except after the Friday prayer. By Allah, that meal contained no fat.

Barley is one of the oldest known grains, first grown in the grasslands of Western Asia, and North Africa, but has roots going back to Mesopotamia (second millennium BC). Barley meal has been traditionally used to make a porridge like dish throughout the Middle East and barley soup is a traditional choice during Ramadan.

In more recent times, barley has become the fourth most grown grain in the world, with over 100 countries growing it, including Russia, France and Canada.

And it’s no wonder given the host of health benefits barley contributes to:

  • It is very high in insoluble fibre, which helps with digestion, to metabolise sugars in the body and with heart health.
  • There is a high concentration of important vitamins and minerals including: manganese, niacin, iron, copper, magnesium, selenium, zinc, folate, as well as vitamins B1 and B3.
  • The insoluble fibre content also helps to inhibit your intestines from absorbing cholesterol, therefore reducing your overall cholesterol levels.
  • It contains antioxidants in the form of lignans. These have been related to lower incidences of cancer and heart disease by reducing inflammation through the control of the bacteria in the gastrointestinal system, which reduces inflammation in the body generally.

How to use barley

While you can buy sprouted barley, best used in baking, the better nutritional value comes from buying hulled uncooked barley grains. You can then soak and sprout them yourself, which releases the maximum nutritional content in a way that your body can absorb. It also makes them easier to digest and even reduces some of the gluten levels. You can also enjoy barley flour in muffins and soups. Check out my Swiss Chard, Barley and Meat Stew here.

How do you sprout your barley grains?

Simply soak them for 8 to 10 hours and then allow them to sprout over a period of several days before using them in your cooking.

Something to avoid in stores is ‘pearl’ barley. This type has been processed so that the hull and the bran is removed, reducing its nutritive value considerably. Hulled barley, mentioned above, on the other hand has the difficult to eat hull removed but the bran and germ is still present, as are the bulk of the nutritive benefits!

Before cooking your sprouted grains, just give them a rinse to remove any particles or hulls that are floating around and cook them to a ratio of 1 part barley to 3 parts of water or broth.

Join the Nurasunna Rediscover Wellness Newsletter

and receive updates on our upcoming courses.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.