Barley with Red Onions and Black Olives; Why eat barley?


Barley has been an important food crop for the last 10,000 years or so.

Barley beer was probably the first drink developed by Neolithic humans.

Barley has been used as currency.

Barley is good for us.

And yet, as food, most of us know it only as one half of Campbell’s Beef Barley Soup.

We’re very familiar with it’s other uses.

When I was at university I learned about one use for barley – the making of that college dietary staple: beer.  Now that I think about it, I consumed rather a lot of barley in that form… Think of how healthy I must have been.

Almost half of the barley grown in the US is used in making beer.

Both Irish and Scotch whisky are based on barley.

A full half of the barley grown in the US is used for animal feed.  It’s is an important fodder in all northern, colder climates: northern and eastern Europe, northern U.S. and Canada.

A tiny bit is used for human consumption, and that mostly in soups and stews or as barley-meal for porridge and breads.

I have a personal campaign to change that.

I love barley.

We eat a lot of different grains.  In a typical week we’ll have whole grain pasta, 2 or 3 different rices, and quinoa or barley as alternatives to the potatoes we were both raised on.

Variety makes life more interesting and healthier.

The barley that I get is ‘quick-cooking’, and only takes about 15 minutes to cook.  Quick-cooking barley is usually pearled barley that has been pre-steamed to shorten the end cooking time.  The steaming leaves the nutrients intact.

The other forms of barley available are:

  • Hulled: The minimum outer shell is removed leaving a chewy, robust grain.  It takes 60 – 90 minutes to cook.
  • Pearled: After the hull is removed the grain is polished or ‘pearled’.  More polishing makes the barley quicker to cook and somewhat less nutrient dense.  It takes 50 – 60 minutes to cook.
  • Pot/Scotch: Somewhere between Hulled and Pearled and more common in Europe.  It cooks in about an hour.

If you are looking to add fiber to your diet, barley’s your grain.

It has more than 3 times the fiber of brown rice, or blueberries; more than twice that of whole-wheat spaghetti or an apple.

In addition it’s high in selenium, tryptophan, copper, manganese and phosphorus.

It’s been shown to help lower cholesterol and control Type 2 Diabetes.

It’s fiber is particularly friendly to the bacteria that live in your gut, keeping your intestines healthy and happy.

And it tastes good.

We all know about the soup…

Why not a stir-fry?

Stir-Fried Chicken and Broccoli with Barley

Chickenand Broccoli on Barley
Or a stew?

Meatball Barley Stew

Meatball Barley Stew

Maybe a salad?

Turkey, Barley, Mushroom Salad on Spinach

Turkey Mushroom Barley Salad
Or a side dish…. a gratin?

Creamy Barley and Chard Gratin

Barley and Chard Gratin

Or a very simple pilaf.

Barley with Red Onion

Barley with Red Onion and Olives

1/2 cup quick-cooking barley
1/2 red onion
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup Greek, dry-cured olives
2 tsp oil

Chop red onion. Heat oil in small saucepan. Add onion and sauté until tender. Add barley, stock, cover and simmer until done, about 15 minutes. All stock should be absorbed.
Roughly chop olives. Stir into barley, cover and let rest 1 – 2 minutes. Stir well and serve.

Oh, okay – one soup….

Chicken Barley Soup

Chicken Barley Soup
You really need to try barley….

7 thoughts on “Barley with Red Onions and Black Olives; Why eat barley?”

  1. That’s it.
    She’s been much better than me about bringing grains into the house.
    She’s eaten barley for years. And other grains she’s rounded up that I can’t even pronounce, like quinoa. I respected that, but couldn’t care less about most grains.
    I need to get more interested. Not getting any younger. Your argument for health benefits is persuasive, as opposed to her position of “I’ll eat it, be healthy and collect on your life insurance.”
    So grains it is. And beans and peas, I think. Except those desired dark green French lentils. They cost a fortune here. Up to US$20/pound. Nuts. Speaking of which…

  2. Isn’t it amazing how these things are repeated? Just two night ago, one of my friends was raving about his wife’s cholent (beef barley kidney bean stew) and I was thinking about how great it sounded. Even though it has barley.
    But of course, you’re right. I do need to try barley again. I don’t know why but I have this ridiculous idea that I don’t like it (perhaps it’s those years of bad school cafeteria lunches that involved tinned beef/barley soup).
    And yet, as I look at these photos and hear your description, I have to wonder why I’ve decided I don’t like barley. Especially the barley with red onions and olives… may I have a dish of that now please?

  3. I am in total agreement; barley is wonderful. Lamb shanks with barley is my favorite. Barley with a little bullion is quick and tasty.
    But there’s another wonderful grain (?) and that’s buckwheat. Very few here eat it, except ground up in pancakes, but it also makes a wonderful pilaf and seems to have a special affinity for mushrooms.

  4. I’ve always preferred using barley to rice actually, I usually just substitute it in any recipe and it works out pretty well

  5. TikiPundit, love those little lentils – not expensive here… And I agree about the life insurance LOL
    Elizabeth, I hate to say this – but I loved that beef barley soup!
    brassfrog, buckwheat is the flour used to make savory crepes here… I can find the flour, but not the grain.
    QandleQueen, we try to eat a lot of grains – and are kind of succeeding 😉
    Val, me too, but the hubs reallys loves his potatoes. Sometimes I make both – 1 for him; 1 for me.
    RSA, I agree, I think it always works instead of rice – and more flavor!

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