Using up lemons with Lemon Barley Water

May 15, 2021

Here in Australia the lemon trees are starting to groan with green lemons. Some are starting to ripen to their sunny yellow color and it always has me thinking of what I can make with 300 odd lemons. Because lets face it, here in Australia every man and his dog has a lemon tree. They are so easy to grow and so expensive to buy! The average cost at the supermarket is about 3 for $5. Outrageous. 

Added to this that most people have no idea what to do with their lemons once they grow them. There are only so many cups of water or gin and tonics you can add a slice too. 

There are so many great ways to use up lemons including giving them away. Baskets of lemons always appear in the kitchens at work, on the side of the road or at the farmers markets with free lemons as people try and deal with the glut. 

Personally there are two simple uses that I go for. You can juice them and freeze it for future use, making lemon curd or using in recipes. Or you can slice them and freeze. 

The best recipe in my opinion is Lemon Barley water and I look forward to it every year. This is not technically a water and is more of a cordial as it contains a lot of sugar. But the ingredients are lemon, barley and water so I guess that's where it gets its name from. 

This is a deliciously mellow and refreshing drink that has me sighing in bliss every time I drink it. The tartness of the lemons is offset by the mellow earthiness of the barley. The discarded barley can be thrown to the chooks or put in the compost, you can even use it to make soup after if you like as it is only boiled in water. 

Ensure you wash the barley well to remove the husk and any trapped dust and dirt. 

Barley is high in fibre and lemon juice is antibacterial making it the perfect drink for avoiding those winter sniffles as well as basically tasting like sunshine.


Yes you can but it will need to be consumed within a few days. The sugar acts as a preserving agent and also makes the batch go further as you can then dilute it with water like a cordial before you drink it. The original recipe had double the sugar that mine does but I find most things really don't need that much unless you want it to be a true cordial and have a very big sweet tooth.


Thankfully most supermarkets now stock pearl barley with the soup ingredients like lentils. You can also pick it up from your bulk goods supplier like farmers markets, just bring your own container to fill up. My local Woolworths and Coles both stock pearl barley for about $1.70 for 500g.


Yes you can. Just ensure there is space at the top of the jar for it to expand as it freezes or it will explode in the freezer. To thaw, move it to the fridge for a day or so or leave it on the bench for a few hours. Ensure you refrigerate after its defrosted. It should last for 3-5days in the fridge.



Zest and juice of 6 lemons (or 1 cup juice)
1 cup sugar
1 cup pearl barley


Rinse barley well then add to a pot. Add 6L of water and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 10minutes. 

Strain out the barley reserving the liquid, discard the barley. Return the liquid to the pan and add the sugar stirring until dissolved.

Add the lemon juice and rind and stir to combine. Allow to cool then pour into jars or bottles and keep refrigerated for up to one week. 

To use, dilute 1:1 with water. 


  • Wash both the lemons and barley well as you will use the rind also. 

  • Remember when straining out the barley that its the water you want to keep, don't accidently strain it down the sink and keep the barley. 

  • You can boil the barley straight in the water then strain it out or tie it into a piece of muslin cloth like a giant teabag.

  • When decanting into bottles for storage heat and sanitise the bottles first to prevent them from cracking from the heat. As Lemon Barley Water has a high sugar content it will be very hot like a syrup.

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