Is pearl barley the perfect food?

I love pearl barley. It’s one of the oldest cultivated cereals and was an important source of food for Europeans up until the end of the 19th century. It has a very low glycaemic index and is high in soluble fibre making it excellent at regulating blood sugar. It’s also higher in protein than rice and corn and can apparently help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduce the risk of colorectal cancers.

Pearl barley is very nutritious and one serving contains calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, zinc, selenium, folate, niacin, thiamin and riboflavin. It’s also very cheap with a 500g packet costing just 55p and producing 20 servings. The Whole Grains Council has a list of research studies on the health benefits of barley here:
http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/health-benefits-of-barley

Pearl barley could be the perfect food and yet most of what we grow gets fed to farm animals. According to this article in Nature, 75% of global barley production is used as animal feed, 20% is malted into things like beer and whiskey and only 5% is used by humans in cooking. Humans eat it in soup but not much else. But barley makes a tasty replacement for rice and pasta and this evening I adapted one of my pasta recipes to include pearl barley instead and it turned out really well so I thought I’d share it:

Pearl barley with cashews and vegetables

* 1 cup of pearl barley
* 1 vegetable stock cube
* 1 leek
* 3 tomatoes
* 2 stalks of celery
* 2 tblsp soy sauce
* 1 tblsp balsamic vinegar
* juice of 1 lemon
* 2 carrots
* 1 cup cashew nuts finely ground
* about 1 cup of water

Bring some water to the boil and cook the pearl barley until soft. This will take about 40 minutes. Once the barley is soft, drain it and put aside.

Fry the leek in olive oil until soft then add the other vegetables and fry for a couple of minutes. Then add all the other ingredients. If it’s too dry add some more water. Simmer for 5 minutes. Eat!

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