Ancient barley is a versatile cooking companion | Kialla Pure Foods

Ancient barley is a versatile cooking companion

March 2, 2018

the benefits or eating barley


Our popular modern day grains derive from wild grasses that humans began cultivating and selectively breeding at least 10,000 years ago.

The theory is that the barley grain was first domesticated around 8000 BCE, in the Fertile Crescent, an area around Iraq and southern Turkey. The wild ancestor of modern barley is abundant across North Africa, the Middle East and into Central Asia.

It was being cultivated from Egypt in the east to the Indus Valley in the west more than 5000 years ago. There’s evidence barley was being fermented in ancient Mesopotamia, probably as an ingredient in bread and beer.  It may well have been transported across ancient Eastern trade routes to China where it appears around 1500-2000 BCE. By this time it had also made it as far north as Finland.

It’s also depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphs and played an important role in their funeral rites. Archaeological finds, dating back to at least 3000 BC, show that it was grown on wet cloths and then placed in the tombs. This is most likely connected to the resurrection myth of Osiris, where the sprouting of barley seeds sown in the belly of the dead god symbolised his return to life.

Grains have long been symbols of cornucopia and abundance. In the ancient Greek Eleusinian mysteries heads of barley represented Demeter, the goddess of fertility. It also played a role in the religious rituals of the ancient Israelites.

Barley Flour, Grain & Bran

Why barley is good for you and your digestion.

Barley is a versatile low GI (glycemic index) grain that provides an excellent source of manganese & molybdenum (60 grms of the dry hulled grain provides 60% of the daily recommended intake). It is high in selenium, dietary fibre & vitamin B1. It also contains copper, which assists with healthy bones, joints and blood vessels, as well as phosphorus, essential for cell-membranes and nervous system structures.

Our Organic Barley grain comes with the inedible husk (or spikelet). It is excellent for sprouting to ensure all the nutritional value is fully intact.

For our Organic Pearl Barley we keep the pearling process to a minimum, so this means, unlike conventional barley pearling, that much of the nutrient value of whole barley is retained. We just polish off of the outermost hull and the bran layer. Pearl barley is much less chewy and quicker to cook than hulled barley, but it is also lower in nutrients, and isn’t considered a ‘whole grain’.

Organic Barley Bran is an insoluble fibre that boosts intestinal health by providing both bulk for regularity, and food for friendly gut microbes that inhabit the large intestine. This collection of microbes is part of our microbiome, a complex system of organic life that is essential for human development, immunity and nutrition. These organisms help to digest our food, regulate our immune system and protect against other disease-causing bacteria. They’re also involved in producing several vitamins, including B vitamins, from the food we eat.

How to use barley:

Compared with other grains, barley’s heat-producing qualities make it an excellent choice for those who feel the chill of winter – it will help you stay warm for many hours. Throughout the colder regions of the world it is traditionally used as a staple food in soups and stews.

Muffin made with barley bran & flour.
  • Cook it as a change from rice. Simply simmer as for rice, and check it for softness after about 25mins. It’s best not to over cook.
  • Try adding some pearl barley to your favourite stew or soup for extra heartiness and flavour. Or, use barley flour to thicken a stew or gravy.
  • When making breads, scones or muffins, add a sweet and earthy flavour by substituting Organic Barley Flour for the wheat flour that the recipe calls for.  A good ratio is to replace half the wheat with barley.
  • Try some barley bran in those muffins too, (picture at left) to give them a delicious chewy flavour. It’s one of my favourite ways to make my muffins healthier.
  • Make a tasty summer salad by tossing chilled, cooked pearl barley with chopped vegetables and your favourite dressing.


Lemon barley water

This is a traditional drink that many of our grandmothers would remember as the original ‘soft drink’.
To make it, rinse ¾ cup of pearl barley until the water runs clear. Then boil it with the zest of 2 lemons in 6 cups of water. Simmer for 10 mins than strain and discard the barley (don’t throw it away, keep cooking it and it will be a perfect ingredient for a fresh summer salad). Add honey to taste, and the lemon juice. Best served chilled on a hot day. Or try it as a warm tonic when you’re coming down with a cold.

Palace cake recipe from the Plate2Farm recipe book

Palace Cake Recipe from Ancient Ur (click on the image to enlarge)

In honour of barley’s ancient place of origin we made a Palace Cake, using a recipe sourced in Cathy Kaufman’s book “Cooking in Ancient Civilisations”. We used barley instead of wheat, since in the light of its history that seemed authentic enough. The end result was a delicious, pie-like date cake, that is sweetened only by the dried fruit.

>You can download a pdf of the full recipe book here.

About our barley

At Kialla we source our organic barley from Queensland’s Lockyer Valley and Western Downs. Sometimes when there’s not enough grown in these regions we’ll go as far as South West NSW and South Australia to get our supplies.

Barley contains gluten and,along with wheat, oats and rye, is not suitable for those on a strict gluten-free diet.

We recommend that all our products are stored under cool dry conditions. For distributors, retailers and manufacturers this means coolroom storage to maintain optimum freshness. At home, refrigerator storage may be necessary, particularly in summer.

Our selection of organic barley grain products




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Categories: cakes, origins, recipes, wholegrains

Written by Sheridan Kennedy on March 2, 2018

About Sheridan Kennedy

One of my defining attributes is my sweet tooth so I love to bake the occasional cake. Though I can't claim to be a great cook! And while I now live in the city, growing up on a sheep and cattle station in western Queensland gave me a lifelong love of the country, and respect for those working on the land. Having a PhD also means I'm a bit obsessed with research...

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  • Pernille Berg Larsen, Baking Teacher & Author

    I always get the best result using your Organic Rye flour!

  • Cherie W., Home Baker

    I never make a bad loaf of bread now, since changing over to Kialla flour… I can’t get over the superior quality of your product. I have bought some for everyone in my family.

  • Pauline Mirabelli from Simply Honest Foods

    We’ve found that Kialla popcorn is the best – it pops so much better than other popcorns, and it tastes great. Our kids love it.

  • Ox Noonan at Ox the Baker, Melbourne

    Our bread can only be possible because of the amazing flour you supply us with, so thank you!

  • Mrs Ergül of Mrs Ergül's Delish Treats

    I truly like the transparency and traceability that Kialla Pure Foods offers. I’m actually able to see which farm grew the wheat milled into my 10kg bag of flour. This really sealed the deal for me. And I feel that Kialla sets themselves apart in this sense.

  • Rebecca Laughery, Consumer

    We’ve tried several other pancake mixes but nothing comes close to yours!

  • Jane Radcliffe, Ruby Do Organic Bakery Cafe.

    When you work with fabulous products the rest is easy.

  • Lisa, owner & baker at Sweet Tooth Noosa

    Of all the brands of flour I have used Kialla is by far the BEST!

  • Meredith J. Home Baker

    Kialla is the best flour I’ve ever used – and that includes some great US flours. Please keep milling forever!!

  • Jacqui Mead, Consumer

    We’ve been using Kialla’s products for approximately seven years now, making the change to Organic Spelt Flour following the discovery that my son had a wheat and dairy intolerance. I have found that our whole family’s health has improved.

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