What is it? Barley itself is a cereal grain - much like wheat. It is used in beer malts, animal feed and many distilled liquors. Pearled barley has been processed and lacks the surrounding hull and bran. Less processed barley, called dehulled barley, still contains the nutritious outer bran. But pearled barley cooks faster and has a softer texture.
What is it used for? Pearled barley is often used in soups and stews as a thickener or to add bulk. It can be used in place of potatoes, rice or other starches in salads or just as a side dish. Pearled barley usually cooks in 35-45 minutes.
Where can I buy it in Houston? This is from Phoenicia, located at 12141 Westheimer (just outside the Beltway). Check out the bulk section of grocery stores for both pearled and dehulled varieties.
Recipe: Meyer Lemon Risotto, Courtesy of 101 Cookbooks