Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Black Barley

Black Barley, aka Purple Barley, has been on the market in the US for a few years, mostly at health food stores, but I am just getting around to working with it. Aside: I have a vast list of ingredients that I want to play with and I am ticking them off one by one.

Black barley has a dark purple to black bran layer that reminds me of Forbidden Rice in color and similar to Forbidden Rice, Black Barley lends a black to purple color to the things that it is cooked with.

I guess the real reason for this post is to say that now that I have worked with it, I'll probably be very loath to go back to standard pearled barley. Black barley has a great texture, similar to that of Wild Rice, which lends itself to soups because it doesn't go mushy. But I really have to say that I like it just plain, both for its texture and its nutty flavor. And plain is how we have been serving it recently. After boiling it, we drain it and then reheat it at service with a touch of salt and butter and serve it under ostrich paillards.

It is simple to cook: merely boil it in sufficient salted water until it becomes tender, about 75-90 minutes. I've found that I get about 1:3 or 1:3.5 yield; that is, it expands about 3 to 3-1/2 times.

I have dozens of applications in mind for it, but I have been unable to get beyond just eating it plain. And I don't appear to be alone. I walked in the kitchen yesterday to find my sous chef snacking on some plain black barley just before dinner.

Great texture, great flavor, great nutrition, what's not to like?


  1. Saw your post on a Google search. Was looking for a place to order more black barley--it's even hard to find here in "foody" Marin, CA! Have recently been cooking lots of black barley and love it--adds a nice crunch to things.

  2. You can get it at, believe it or not. We buy from a traditional restaurant distributor.