Barley is a major cereal grain, a member of the grass family. It is used primarily as animal fodder, a source of fermentable material for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods, although it does contain gluten.
Nutritionally, it is a wonderful cereal with eight essential amino acids. Whole grain barley (dehulled barley) still has its bran and germ and is a high-fiber, high protein grain.
Pearl barley is dehulled barley which has been steam processed further to remove the bran, and is of course less nutritious compared to whole grain. When cooked, barley has a chewy texture and nutty flavor, similar to brown rice.