|After a global search for seed, a couple of years of trials (and several months working out how to flake and mill it) we’ve finally welcomed organic naked barley into the Bean Store.|
Joining our pulses and quinoa, naked barley represents another element in the more diverse farming systems and diets we established Hodmedod to support and promote.
So named because unlike normal barley the grain falls from the ear without the need for polishing, naked barley is - like wheat - suitable for milling and eating immediately after harvest. This also means that, unlike polished or pearled barley, when you eat naked barley you’re eating a whole grain.
Because it was so easy to prepare for milling, naked barley became a major crop in the Bronze and Iron Age; its tolerance of wetter growing conditions would have made it especially important in Northern Europe. Sadly naked barley is very rarely grown these days and barley of all types has been almost entirely replaced by wheat as the main ingredient in bread. But barley, and especially naked barley, is a fantastic crop! Needing less water during establishment than wheat, yet better able to cope with our wet summers, it also requires less nitrogen fertilizer.
Aside from the agronomic benefits, naked barley makes for a nutritionally exciting alternative to wheat. It’s higher in protein (around 15 or 16% as compared to 10 or 12% for wheat), is a source of soluble fibre, is high in complex carbohydrates and has a low glycemic index. It’s also a good source of barley beta-glucans which have been shown to lower/reduce blood cholesterol (high cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease).
Just as importantly it tastes delicious! We’ve had it flaked which makes it perfect for porridge, granola, muesli, crumble toppings and in bread baking (as the e5 Bakehouse are ably demonstrating). The flakes have a nutty, malty flavour quite unlike oats, wheat or polished barley and we’ve particularly enjoyed it as porridge topped with blueberries or honey.
Organic trials with our naked barley landrace continue both at Home Farm Nacton (larger scale) and at Wakelyns Agroforestry (smaller plots), just a couple of miles down the road from our Bean Store. Run by Professor Martin Wolfe, Wakelyns uses a system of intercropping where rows of trees separate alleys of crops an approach which helps to maximize fertility and minimize the carry-over and spread of weeds, pests and diseases.
It's often said that the best way to conserve rare varieties of crop plants is to eat them and that's certainly true of naked barley. If you’re keen to try this incredible, almost forgotten cereal and become part of its revival you can buy it now, here.
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