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Essential Pantry Hulless Tibetan Black Barley
32 oz (2 pound) bag - Idaho - Organic

This Black Tibetan Barley is gorgeous. It's a whole grain product — but you would hardly know it once you cook it. Lower in gluten than whole grain wheat, this organic black barley has a nautrally occuring, slightly sweet flavor.

Black hulless barley makes a perfect barley salad that even the kids love. Plus all the great health benefits that come from the "black" pigments -- the same compound that you will find in purple cabbage, which is so good for the body.

In pre-historic times, barley grew among the wild grasses. Nomads from the Near East gathered the barley (and einkorn) long before the agrarian agriculture took hold.

There are two basic types of barley and both existed back in ancient times: Hulled and hulless. The difference is hard to understand, but here goes; In hulled barley, the hull binds to the kernel and does not come off during harvest. In hulless barley, the hull is not bound to the kernel, and it falls off easily. So hulless barley does have a hull when it is harvested -- but the hull comes off easily, leaving the whole-grain kernel in tact. While in hulled barley, the hull must be rubbed off -- using a process called "pearlizing" - taking some of the endoderm or bran with it.

For some reason, modern industrialized western countries disregarded the hulless barleys. From a nutritional stand point, that was not a good thing. Because pearlizing barley removes most of the bran during the process of rubbing off the hull. Where, with hulless barley, no bran is removed, leaving the complete, whole-grain goodness of the barley in tact.

Lucky for us, hulless barleys did not go away completely. It is still an important food crop in Northern Africa, the Middle Eat and in the Himalayas. And lucky for us, some browers in Oregon are in the business of bringing back ancestral crops and growing them here in the Pacific Northwest - including Black Tibetan Barley.

Over the last three years, a grower in Idaho has been working on their seed stock -- cleaning and propagating it -- into what is now, for the first time this year, and reasonable commercially viable crop.

nutritionally speaking
Barley stands out for its many nutritional qualities. It is high in Glucan Soluble Fiber - the fiber that helps lower cholesterol and reduced the glycemic index - which helps to lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes. The FDA has recently labeled barley as "heart healthy."

Maltose syrup is another product made from barley, and it give barley it's fine, slightly sweet flavor.

Lastly, the pigment in Black Tibetan Barley specifically contains high levels of antioxidants - Anthocyanin in particular, the same antioxidant found in beets and purple cabbage. Generally speaking, antioxidants found in grains are more stable than those found in fruits and vegetables.

Barley in cooking
Functionally, barley can be substituted for whole wheat grains in almost any recipe, with the exception of leavened bread; barley is not suitable for making bread because it is lower in gluten than wheat. So add a little color to your pilaf and risotto. Or make pancakes with the Black Tibetan Barley flour - one of the few whole grain pancakes my kids will eat, because it's a little sweet.