It’s Barley, it’s Naked and it’s Back in Britain

Natural Food Ingredient Producers Edme Blaze a Trail with this Ancient Grain

It’s been 80 years since naked barley was grown in Britain and well over 100 years since it was grown in significant quantities. In the quest for new ingredients with high nutritional values, it has now been re-introduced into the country.  The first commercial crop this century has just been harvested – and it won’t be long before it’s appearing in some breads and baked goods on supermarket shelves.

The project is being led by natural ingredient company Edme with support from agricultural environmentalist William Hudson.

“We’re expecting demand to far outstrip supply,” says Mike Carr from Edme. “Bakers are really keen to get their hands on unusual, wholesome ingredients – particularly those with a good story to tell. Naked barley is a fascinating ancient variety that delivers huge dietary benefits. Its flour and flakes can be used in breads, cakes, biscuits, pastries and breakfast cereals - enhancing nutritional value as well as adding flavour.”

The majority of barley grown in Britain is for malting and the malt is used in the production of beer and whisky. The ‘glume’ or ‘husk’ plays a vital role in the brewing and distilling processes. However, it is indigestible in its own right so has to be removed for food production.

“With naked barley, the glume isn’t attached so firmly on to the grain,” says William Hudson of Hodmedod. “So when it is being harvested, the husk just drops off. The grain still has its bran layer and is still packed with all the goodness of this amazing cereal.

“In addition to the vitamin and mineral content, barley grains have a low GI - glycemic index, They are also said to have three times the beta glucans (those cholesterol-busting agents!) of oats. Barley is often classified as a superfood – and so it should be! By re-introducing naked barley to Britain, and getting the whole supply chain excited about it, I believe the nation’s diet can be improved.”

Edme and Hudson are working with the renowned John Innes Centre on the project – experimenting with 120 different types of the grain. For the time being, while propagation of those are running their course, Gengel is the type of naked barley they are growing and processing. There are three growers involved: one each in Essex, Suffolk and Lincolnshire.

“The thing about Edme,” says Hudson, “is that they’re investing in the long term. They work closely with farmers, agricultural specialists and researchers – and are constantly looking of ways to influence and improve the nutritional value of everyday foods.”

Mike Carr adds, “The ingredients we produce include flour, flakes and a fantastic sprouted wholegrain called WholeSoft.  The naked barley versions of these products will be limited until greater quantities of the raw grain are being produced. Over the next couple of years we’ll be in a position to meet the demand from bakers and food producers. This will result in more consumers being able to benefit from the magnificent superfood that is barley.”

Further info: Frances Brace  07432 692309

Naked Barley health benefits:

      barley is known to reduce blood cholesterol levels because it is a rich source of complex carbohydrates, particularly beta-glucan soluble fibre.

Prevents spikes of blood sugar insulin and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes