• Mike Sula
  • Hazzard Free Farms’ purple barley

Last month when I was going on about the panoply of locally produced foods at Ravenswood’s River Valley Farmer’s Table, I neglected to mention the small stock of obscure grains grown by Hazzard Free Farm in Pecatonica, near Rockford. Hazzard grows a bunch of cool-looking heirloom grains, many sporting unusual colors like Floriani Red Flint cornmeal and Hopi Blue polenta, but what caught my eye was a bag of dusty-looking whole-grain Tibetan purple barley. Besides looking cool (once washed), this is hull-less barley as opposed to pearled, which means it still has its nutritious bran, but also means it takes a long time to cook. I soaked it overnight before I made beef and barley soup, then cooked it for a whole day without breaking down the grains. They were nice, though, chewy and nutty and a bit like wheat berries, which the package says they make a good substitute for in salads. I say, eat some purple barley.

Recipe after the jump:

Beef and purple barley soup (adapted from Ina Garten)
1 1/2 lbs beef stew meat or oxtails
10 c beef or chicken stock
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 bay leaves
a bunch of thyme to taste
1 1/2 c purple barley
1 T olive oil

Add the olive oil to the pot. Turn the heat on high and sear the beef until well browned, then remove it from the pot. Add the onion and saute until soft, scraping up all the browned beefy bits sticking to the bottom, then add the rest of the vegetables and continue sauteing until all are soft. Put the beef back in along with the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the herbs and the barley and cook slowly until the beef is tender and the grains are well cooked. Season with salt and pepper.