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Barley has long sharp ears and the golden grains sit inside these. The grains are used to make flour and grains but are also used as an ingredient in many beers and whiskies. Carbohydrates in fine flour from barley have a special structure that differs from other types of cereals.
There are two main types of barley, six row barley and two row barley, and can be grown as both a winter and spring crop. However, the most common form of barley is spring two row barley.
Today, barley is grown on 14 percent of arable land in Sweden, mainly in the north but also in other parts of the country, and makes up around 30 percent of the total grain harvest (based on the average for barley and the total harvest over the last five years in Sweden).
Along with wheat, barley is our oldest cultivated plant, wild varieties were present throughout the area in the Middle East known as the fertile crescent. As with cultivated wheat, over the course of hundreds of years humans sought to develop wild varieties of barley into varieties that were suitable for cultivation.
In the Nordic region, barley has long been the dominant crop and was used for both animal feed and as a raw ingredient in porridge, bread and various kinds of fermented drinks. In more recent centuries, cultivation of barley has gone down, first due to increased cultivation of oats and in more recent times, due to increased cultivation of wheat.
Potato and barley dumplings, part of the traditional Swedish diet, are known by many different names and are also available in many different varieties. However, almost every recipe includes barley flour amongst the important ingredients.
Barley contains Beta-glutan, an insoluble fibre, that can help lower cholesterol levels in blood. Barley is also rich in minerals crucial to our health such as potassium, magnesium and phosphorous.
With its low Glycaemic Index (GI), almost as low as legumes, it takes longer for the body to metabolise energy from barley. As such, it can be beneficial for diabetics to eat barley as it stabilises their blood sugar levels.
Barley is included in the group of “ancient grains” that have been part of the human diet for thousands of years. Interest in unrefined food has increased in recent years, in which barley is one of the key ingredients.
Barleycorn is delicious in salads or as a filling alternative to risotto. You can also replace ground meat with barleycorn in e.g. pasta sauces for a more climate smart meal.
Dare to try something new!