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Barley Bean Stew - By Susan Waxman

Introduction & Ingredients:

Spring is the time of year when energy begins to come out to the surface. If we observe nature we see trees start to form buds and tiny little leaves. Flowers begin to push their way to the surface. This gentle rising energy begins to create more active circulation. 

In oriental medicine elements naturally occurring in nature are used to classify internal organs according to their energetic characteristic. In macrobiotics we refer to this philosophy as the 

Five Transformations or five unique aspects of energy. We also use this same classification to categorize foods, the seasons, direction and movement. Springtime is described as rising energy. 

In five transformations the element is “tree or wood” energy. Interesting enough, the “trees” begin 

to come to life in the springtime.


In food classification one of the grains affiliated with “tree” energy is barley. Barley is both strengthening and relaxing, allowing our bodies to be deeply nourished while gently opening our condition for the freshness to enter. As the air warms a healthy person naturally wants to spend more time outdoors. The more time we spend in nature the more we can align with this open, fresh energy and activate our own circulation.

Here is a recipe for “Barley Bean Stew” which will provide you with gentle warmth,inner strength while staying light so you can enjoy all the activity that this Spring has to offer.

Barley Bean Stew

         Preparation time: 1½ hours

         Serves 4 to 6 



          1 cup pearled barley, washed
          1 cup pre-cooked white beans with ⅓ cup of their cooking liquid.
          *Non-Gmo, BPA free Canned beans work well too, as does Organic fried tempeh.
          1½ cups diced onions
          1 cup diced root vegetables. Choose a combination of carrot, daikon, or parsnip.
          1 cup diced leeks or celery
          ½ to ¾ teaspoon sea salt
          2¼ cups water
          1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil or light sesame oil


          Place the onion in a pot with ¼ cup of water.
          Turn on the flame and begin to cook the onions. When the onions begin to glisten, 

          add a small pinch of sea salt (about 1/16 teaspoon).
          Allow the onions to cook on their own for 3 to 5 minutes.
          Layer the leeks or celery on top of the onions followed by the root vegetables and barley.
          Add additional water and bring to a boil.
          Add another ⅛ teaspoon sea salt, cover, and place a flame deflector under the pot.
          Lower the flame and simmer on low for 30 minutes.
          Add the white beans and the remaining amount of salt. 

          Gently fold the beans into the stew to blend the ingredients and the seasoning.

          Cook for another 20 minutes.

         *For a richer flavor, sauté ½ cup diced onions and/or leeks together with the white beans, 

           then mix to combine with the barley and vegetables.