American Heart Month is in February – as is National Barley Month – and Ground Up is on a mission to share the heart-healthy qualities of barley flour with bakers and diners everywhere.
Barley, an often-overlooked grain for bakers, is officially recognized by the FDA for its high soluble fiber content and cholesterol-lowering properties.
“Barley is truly a superfood,” said Andrea Stanley, co-founder of Ground Up. “It’s high in a type of fiber called beta glucan, a soluble fiber recognized by the FDA for its ability to lower cholesterol. Its high magnesium content also helps control blood sugar and insulin levels, aiding in diabetes prevention as well as heart health.”
In addition to the health benefits, barley creates unique flavors and textures. “We use barley flour in our fruit muffins,” said Brian Meunier, baker and owner of Rise Above Bakery in Greenfield, MA, “along with whole and bolted wheat and a little organic buckwheat flour. It adds a light nuance of creamy nuttiness.”
Originating as a wild grass in the Middle East’s Fertile Crescent, barley has been cultivated for at least the past 10,000 years. It was used in early breads, porridges and fermented beverages, and is still a crucial ingredient in beer.
In ancient Egypt, barley seeds were considered a gift of the goddess Isis, and germinating barley kernels symbolized the resurrection of the goddess Osiris.
With its ability to adapt to difficult growing conditions and a variety of soil types, barley is now grown around the world. The grain is a traditional ingredient in pasta from southern Italy, and barley flour can also be used in pancakes, cookies, breads and other baked goods. Several recipes are available at shop.groundupgrain.com.
(Ground Up produces freshly stone-milled flour from 100% Northeast, family farm-grown grains in their hydroelectric-powered mill in Holyoke, MA. The company also malts and processes regionally-grown grains for brewers and distillers under the Valley Malt brand.)
Ground Up has been producing stone-ground barley flour since 2019. They sift the flour to an 83% extraction rate, meaning that it contains 83% of the nutrition of the whole grain. Conventional white flour contains about 72% of the nutrition, and whole grain flour contains 100%. For scientifically-minded bakers who are interested in protein content, the flour contains 11% protein.
Featured photo: Ground Up barley flour