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Barley still in its hull.

Barley is a cereal plant belonging to the genus Hordeum of the grass family Poaceae (Gramineae) and its edible grain.

Barley bran is similar to rice bran. The bran contains all the vitamins, minerals and oils. The bran is where the flavor is. Without the protection of its airtight hull, the bran will turn rancid absent refrigeration or de-oxygenization, just like brown rice. That's why non-pearled barley and brown rice is not to be found on shelves in any retail food market. Pearled barley, the most popular form in many parts of the world, consists of whole kernels from which the outer husk and part of the bran layer have been removed by a polishing process. It is added to soups. Pearled barley is white, like store shelf rice. And like white rice, is mostly pure starch.

Barley cultivation probably originated in the highlands of Ethiopia and in Southeast Asia in prehistorical times. It is believed to extend back to 5000 BC in Egypt, 3500 BC in Mesopotamia, 3000 BC in northwestern Europe, and 2000 BC in China. Barley was the chief bread plant of the Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans and of much of Europe through the 16th century.

Barley has a nutlike flavor and is high in carbohydrates, with moderate quantities of protein, calcium, and phosphorus and small amounts of the B vitamins. Because it contains little gluten, an elastic protein substance, it cannot be used to make a flour that will produce a porous loaf of bread. Barley flour is used to make an unleavened type, or flatbread, and to make porridge, especially in North Africa and parts of Asia, where it is a staple food grain.

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