Pearl barley is by far the most popular form of barley in the United States. Extensive processing removes the two outer hulls along with the bran layer resulting in uniformly-sized, ivory grains with very little fiber. This processing makes it less chewy to the bite, but it also removes a vast majority of the barley’s inherent nutrition. Its flavor is mild and nutty, and it cooks in 30 to 45 minutes.
Barley (also called groats) is botanically known as Hordeum vulgare, and is believed to originate in western Asia or Ethiopia. Dating back to the stone age, barley is still considered one of the top five cereal grains in the world. Only ten percent of barley is used as human food, while a full third is used for brewing malt beverages, including beer and whiskey. However, the majority of harvest barley is used for livestock feed. Barley is also a prime ingredient in the making of one variety of the popular Japanese condiment called miso.