Introducing Tibetan Black Barley

Introducing Tibetan Black Barley

We are excited to introduce a beautiful hulless grain new to these parts. Grown on an Organic farm in Buhl, Idaho, our Organic Tibetan Black Barley is provided by Oregon Grain & Bean. Patrick Hayes, a professor of barley breeding and genetics at Oregon State University, says this barley doesn't have the tough outer hull, so it is easy to thresh like wheat, rather than other hulled barleys, a result of the selective breeding by Tibetans over thousands of years.

With its bran intact, it retains its firm, plump texture during cooking, making it perfect in soups, stuffing and stews. It has a pleasing nutty taste and satisfying texture, which adds an excellent contrasting combination when mixed with other grains.

Black barley gets its deep rich color from its high antioxidant level of anthocyanin. Also found in red cabbage and beets, this antioxidant is said to be more stable in grains than in vegetables. Tibetan Black Barley is high in essential minerals and it's prebiotic, meaning it helps promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria. It is also high in beta glucans-a soluble fiber, which have been shown to help to lower cholesterol and reduce glycemic levels, thus lowering the risk of heart disease and diabetes.


Tibetan Black Barley is the featured ingredient in Tsampa—a staple food of Tibetans, affectionately called the National food of Tibet. It is roasted barley ground into fine and coarse flour—Tsampa flour. Tsampa is very simple and easy-to-prepare, usually with added butter and tea, eaten at home and by adventurers in Tibet. Both as a cereal or as energy balls called pa, Tsampa has had a long history. The Black Barley is thought to be what allowed early Tibetans to move into the high mountains - further from civilization. Nutritionists highly regarded this barley for health, and the Dalai Lama says he eats it for breakfast everyday (watch the fun video). It is also used in religious offerings and ceremonies.

To cook this whole grain, combine one part Black Barley with three parts water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover with a lid until barley is soft—check around 60 minutes. Drain any excess water (if necessary) then fluff with a fork to separate the grains. Enjoy our Organic Tibetan Black Barley as a side dish, in a summer salad or soup, or roast it and mill it into flour for Tsampa.


Hummingbird's own Senior Farm Liaison, James Henderson, is the owner of Oregon Grain & Bean. He first spotted this Black Barley at a barley field day event at Oregon State University in Corvallis, and paid for 5 grams of seed. He presented it to his wife as an anniversary gift (a tongue-in-cheek joke) in 2013. That was the beginning of this whole crop.

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1 comment

What an inspiring story!! Hummingbird is the best.


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