Glossary - Staple Foods



Barley is a staple food for humans and other animals. It is more tolerant of soil salinity than wheat, which might explain the increase of barley cultivation on Mesopotamia from the 2nd millennium BC onwards. Barley can still thrive in conditions that are too cold even for rye.

Barley must have its fibrous outer hull removed before it can be eaten. Barley grains with their hulls still on are called covered barley. Once the grain has had the inedible hull removed, it is called hulled barley. At this stage, the grain still has its bran and germ, which are nutritious. Hulled barley is considered a whole grain, and is a popular health food. Pearl barley or pearled barley is hulled barley which has been processed further to remove the bran. It may be polished, a process known as "pearling".

Hulled or pearl barley may be processed into a variety of barley products, including flour, flakes similar to oatmeal, and grits. It may be malted and used in the production of alcoholic beverages. Malting barley is a key ingredient in beer and whiskey production. Two-row barley is traditionally used in German and English beers, and six-row barley in American beers. Non-alcoholic drinks such as barley water and mugicha are also made from unhulled barley.

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