It was one of the first cultivated cereals and was grown in Switzerland during the Stone Age. It is less nutritious than wheat as it has a lower protein content. As barley has less gluten it does not mix so easily with water to form paste or dough and has, therefore, over the past two or three hundred years, gradually been replaced by wheat as the chief grain for bread making in Europe. Barley was brought to North America by early settlers and is now grown in most sections of the United States.
Today, in this country as in most of Europe, barley is used chiefly for malt production for the brewing industry.
In ancient Babylon the grain was so highly valued that it was used as standard currency. Luckily for us, today a dollar can be exchanged at your local grocer for several pounds of barley. (In 2011, perhaps a pound or two.)
In order to get barley into the kitchen we present these recipes in the hope that you will serve some of this versatile grain in preparations ranging from soup and stew to salad and dessert, all of which are as economical as they are appealing.
You will find barley adds a hearty note that is particularly welcome on chilly March days.