Food Of The Month: Cooking with Springtime Barley

According to ‘The Five Transformations of Energy’, (the ancient study of the energy of nature and how it relates to us) we are entering the Spring – Tree energy phase. This is the time of year when we become more active, go outside, and reawaken after the more sedentary winter energy phase.

Our bodies go through a natural cleansing at this time of year. It’s easy to see how the organs associated with this phase are the liver, gallbladder, and nervous system, the organs that are associated with detoxing the body. The liver and gallbladder are primarily responsible for purifying the blood.

When these organs are working properly, they neutralize poisons and toxins and remove them from the blood. The liver also regulates the release of sugars into the body for fuel. If the liver is overtaxed from the over consumption of dense fatty foods such as dairy, it cannot properly give the body energy.

To make sure these important organs are working properly, we can incorporate the signature foods for this energy phase.

The signature grains for spring are barley, wheat, rye, and oats. If you have gluten sensitivities you might have an imbalance in this energy phase. You can concentrate on the gluten free foods of this phase; green lentils, split peas, black eyed peas, peanuts, parsley, lettuces, green beans, and green peas.
The signature flavor of spring is sour. You can get this flavor in your diet by eating naturally fermented foods, sauerkraut, sour dough breads, and using lemons or limes to flavor dishes. This sour flavor lightens up our energy and awakens our taste buds, that have spent the winter enjoying more salty foods.
If you have an imbalance in this energy phase it can show itself in your physical body as well as your emotional body. If you have excess or aggravated tree energy, you may have anger issues. It could show up in sharp hand gestures, having a loud voice, or being easily irritated by others. If you feel very creative but are frustrated about your inability to express yourself, you may want to start incorporating these foods in your diet. They will uplift your energy and clean out the stored frustrations (toxins) that have accumulated in your body over time. Less common, but still a condition is deficient tree energy, you may experience lack of decision making skills, move slowly, and experience a loss of initiative.

Barley is the whole grain known for cleansing the body. It is one of the oldest grains, originating in Southwest Asia around 8500 B.C. Roasted barley was one of the main foods of the gladiators because it gives tremendous strength when eaten. Known for strengthening the blood and intestines, barley contains potassium, iron, calcium, protein, and fiber. When buying barley, look for whole barley. Pearl barley has the bran polished off, which loses the fiber and other nutrients.

Barley is excellent for soups, stews, salads, and added to vegetable dishes. It has a chewy, creamy texture, and a nice sweet taste. If you have gluten sensitivities, substitute brown rice for any recipe using barley.

Barley and Bok Choy

1 cup whole barley
2 cups water
4 scallions (thin diagonals)
1 carrot (matchsticks)
2 cups mushrooms (cut up)
1 yellow summer squash (matchsticks)
1 bunch bok choy (shredded)
3 garlic cloves (minced)
olive oil, tamari
1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds
2 tsp. basil
1 T. tamari
2 T. lemon juice

Put barley and water in a pot. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to
simmer, put lid on and pot boil for 40 minutes or until all water has been
absorbed. Sauté each of the vegetables, one at a time, in a little olive oil
and a dash of tamari. Once each vegetable is done, put in a large mixing
bowl. Once barley is done add to the bowl. Add the sunflower seeds, basil, 1
T. tamari, and 2 T. lemon juice. Mix everything together and serve warm.

Val Wilson

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About the writer: Valerie Wilson

Valerie Wilson is a chef, author, counselor, and host of "Healthy Cooking with Macro Val" on BMSRadio. She teaches macrobiotic, vegan cooking classes in Westland, Mi.

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