Hulless barley: something for everyone
[img_blog_caption image=’https://www.albertabarley.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Barley-Country-NewsBlog-Archives-Hulless-Barley-something-for-everyone-November-2012.png’ caption=’: From food to malt to feed, hulless barley has a wide array of end-uses. ‘ credit=”Dr. Joseph Nyachiro”]The versatility and health benefits of barley are well known, but awareness of one type in particular is on the rise. Hulless barley has enjoyed the limelight recently. It has a tough, inedible outer hull that is loosely adhered to the kernel. Because the hull usually falls off during harvesting, processors often refer to this type of barley as “naked” barley. It needs little or no processing to remove the hull and requires minimal cleaning, so that most of the bran and endosperm is left intact and the germ is present.
According to Dr. Patricia Juskiw, a barley breeder for Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development’s Field Crop Development Centre (FCDC) in Lacombe, hulless barley provides unique advantages for barley’s three main uses:
- Malting barley: “With the hulls removed, there is greater extract and a higher concentration of enzymes, resulting in better beer yields per acre.”
- Forage barley: “Falcon hulless barley has excellent forage quality due to better digestibility of its fibre, so the cow can eat more and produce more milk.”
- Food barley: “Hulless barley does not need to be pearled to remove the husk, so it can be used directly.”
Dr. Joseph Nyachiro, also at the FCDC, has been fielding many calls about hulless barley since the recent announcement of the food barley health claim.
“Recently, Health Canada endorsed barley as a health food, so people are seeking it out more than ever,” he said of hulless food barley. “Barley can lower the bad cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart attack. Also, its lower glycemic index reduces the incidence of diabetes while giving you more sustained energy by avoiding that sugar rush.”
Most of the calls have come from farmers looking for seed to plant and producers wanting hulless general-purpose barley to feed livestock.
“I’ve also received calls from grain brokers sourcing hulless barley for the export market,” said Nyachiro.
While these benefits are not unique to hulless barley, it does contain higher levels of beta-glucans, the soluble fibre found in the cell walls of barley that produce health advantages.
“You need to consume less hulless food barley to obtain the three grams of beta-glucan that Health Canada recommends for lowering cholesterol,” said Nyachiro.
It’s no wonder that grocery and health food stores are seeing an increased demand for hulless food barley. At Community Natural Foods in Calgary, Bulk Manager Satvir Bains sells it to a wide range of customers.
“We have some Vietnamese regulars who take it to their churches and feed an entire community,” said Bains. “Many of our elderly customers have incorporated it as a daily breakfast staple.”
Bains said he appreciates the versatility of hulless food barley.
“It works in sweet meals and savoury dishes, as the taste is less pronounced than that of rye. It mixes well with other grains and produces the dense bread that many people favour.”
Frank Sarro, purchasing manager for Community Natural Foods, said offering hulless food barley is a no-brainer.
“We carry whole foods and want to give people the best options. Our cost is decent and it’s one of our top sellers, so why wouldn’t we stock it?” he said.
That sentiment is echoed by Monica Marchuk, bulk food manager at Calgary’s Amaranth Whole Foods Market.
“We brought it in two years ago and we sell twice as much as the pearled barley,” she said. “Many customers grind their own flour and find the hulless food barley ideal for that purpose.”
Recognition of hulless food barley and its benefits is not confined to just the local market.
“It’s the primary food for most people in the Middle East and Northern Europe,” said Dr. James Helm, plant breeder and head of research at the FCDC. “The Third World in particular appreciates it because you needn’t peel the hull off or pearl it, which requires manpower.”
Linda Whitworth, Alberta Barley’s market development manager, is making plans to capitalize on hulless food barley, driving new market opportunities for the province’s barley farmers.
“We’re planning a media campaign in the new year when people are making resolutions and becoming more health conscious,” said Whitworth. “It’s the perfect time to educate consumers about the many health benefits of hulless food barley, such as lower cholesterol and weight loss.”
Whitworth is also working with processors to make new hulless barley food products more accessible for consumers.
“Barley flour can be substituted for wheat flour in muffins, cakes and quick breads (like banana bread), while barley flakes are ideal in granola bars and multi-grain cereals.
“In addition to the health claim, we’re also pleased with the recent change to the Canadian Grain Commission’s Official Grain Grading Guide that added a new food barley class,” said Whitworth.
“It should help the industry promote new barley varieties that have good milling characteristics and are also developed specifically for specialty food markets.”