This summer salad combines barley, a great-tasting grain, with fresh vegetables.
Flavored with mint, parsley, garlic, and lemon, it might remind you of tabbouleh, a Middle Eastern dish traditionally made with bulgur wheat.
This dish makes a healthy alternative to the usual picnic or potluck potato salad.There’s nothing wrong with potatoes. They’ve got vitamin C and carbohdyrates in the form of starch but barley has a little extra.
Try it as a light meal all on its own, or as a wonderful accompaniment to other dishes.
As a whole grain rich in soluble fiber and beta glucan, barley does have a lower glycemic index (40) and lower glycemic load (10) for 100 g of cooked grain. This is the equivalent of just over 1/2 cup of cooked barely, as a hot grain or cooled as in this salad.
One cup of cooked barely does have 44 g of carbohydrate and 6 g of fiber for 38 g of net carbs. It’s true that foods rich in fiber help to slow the digestion of carbs and therefore have less of an impact on blood sugar, but for those with diabetes, pre-diabetes (insulin resistance), elevated triglycerides etc, this is still a relatively large amount. Just something to consider.
Other nutrients found in barley in somewhat meaningful amounts include folate, magnesium, and potassium.
Barley’s beta-glucan fiber feeds the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract too making barley a prebiotic fiber-containing food to consider.
Is barley gluten free? For those with gluten intolerance, the answer is no, barley DOES contain gluten.
Bell peppers are sweet tasting, low in calories but surprisingly rich in beta carotene. We think of carrots, mangoes and dark green veggies like spinach and kale etc when it comes to beta carotene, but red bell peppers have it too.
One cup of sliced bell peppers has about the same amount of beta carotene as 1/3 of a small carrot. Peppers are also loaded with vitamin C. One cup of diced peppers has a decent 190 mg of vitamin C; more than the average orange.
Barley Cucumber Salad
- 3 cups vegetable stock or water
- 1 cup pearl barley
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 bunch scallions sliced thin
- 1 bunch radishes sliced
- 1 cucumber peeled, seeded, and diced
- 1 red bell pepper seeded and sliced
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint or 1/4 cup dried mint
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3-4 cloves garlic mashed
- Salt to taste
Bring to a boil the vegetable stock (or water). Add barley and salt. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes. Drain well and place in a medium bowl.
Mix the dressing ingredients together and pour over barley.
Allow barley to cool, then add the parsley, scallions, radishes, cucumber, red pepper, and mint.
Mix well and chill for several hours before serving.
Doug Cook RDN is a Toronto based integrative and functional nutritionist and dietitian with a focus on digestive, gut, mental health. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.