Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Bring on the barley ...

Posted 8/04/15 (Tue)

As August gets underway, so does the barley harvest. North Dakota is the perfect state for growing barley and it fits into just about any crop rotation.

It’s a great crop, although it itches a lot, and farmers have done well getting contracts for their malt barley with the likes of Coors Brewing Co., Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing.

Does that mean that beer is as good for you as the health gurus tell us because it contains barley?

Maybe not, but barley is said to be a “superfood,” a healthy cereal grain that lowers cholesterol, improves blood pressure and even sharpens your mind.

But where do you get it?

All the best barley is going to the brewing companies who demand it for their quality beers.

All the barley that doesn’t make malt quality is turned over and fed to livestock, hence the feed barley moniker you see on page 4 of this newspaper every week.

I’m not disputing that barley isn’t healthy for the human body, my question is, where do you get it?

Look in any grocery store, any bakery, any health food store and restaurants and barley is going to be hard to find.

There’s pearled barley that comes in small boxs that is great for soups, but beyond that, barley is difficult to find.

In the second half of the 1990s, the Bread Pan Bakery in Langdon was churning out loaves of barley bran bread every day and the harder they worked, the more barley bran bread they sold. People came from as far away as Winnipeg to literally gobble up the bakery’s barley bran bread.

It’s no longer made in Langdon as new ownership of the bakery has gone to more of a “Subway” sandwich type of place... No barley bran bread, just bleached white submarine buns.

I’ve never seen this bread anyplace else. My wife and I have scoured the healthy and organic stores in Tampa and St. Pete and we haven’t been able to find it. Does anyone bake barley bran bread?

What we often will find is baby food made from barley. That’s it and pearled barley for soups, nothing else.

A second barley story comes from Harvey. Again, during the 1990s, there was a hot breakfast cereal made from barley that was very similar to instant oatmeal, and it was packaged in Harvey.

In fact, this barley cereal which had added berries, bananas or strawberries, was available in every Army dining facility in the 1990s.

What happened to it? Barley is healthy for us and a small-town food company gets a contract with the Department of Defense? What happened to the barley cereal?

If barley is a superfood, why aren’t we using it in our diets as a way to curb the obesity in America? It’s because we’re drinking beer and becoming more obese.

So herein lies a problem and I’m surprised nobody has figured this out or may have tried and failed. Perhaps the North Dakota Barley Council should take a close look at this.

OK! The best barley that makes malt quality goes to the brewers who are paying the farmer on contract. If it doesn’t make malt, it becomes feed barley and we feed it to our cows, chickens and pigs who are most likely more healthy than we are because of their barley consumption.

What happens to that barley that doesn’t quite make malt quality and is much better than the average feed barley?

It gets fed to the cows, of course.

So why not have a third class of barley, one that fits the parameters of human consumption?

Can you imagine the market potential in this? Every consumer in California would be all over this and California has 30 million people and Florida has another 24 million people. Ca ching!

Many of us out on the combine have stuck barley in our mouths without analyzing it and we just ate it. And it was good and it lowered our cholesterol, even if we were 14 years old.

So why isn’t there a third class of barley, something like culinary barley, food-grade barley or barley berries?

Bread, cold and hot breakfast cereal, soup, salads, stew, mixed with gravy, an ingredient in smoothies and the list goes on for the potential of this item.

Remember when flax was nothing more than a product used in linseed oil? Now health food stores and about every vendor is selling flax at farmers markets.

A third barley class could certainly bring new meaning to the phrase, “I’m having a barley sandwich.