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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Barley field
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
(unranked): Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Subfamily: Pooideae
Tribe: Triticeae
Genus: Hordeum
Species: H. vulgare[1]
Binomial name
Hordeum vulgare

Barley is a cereal grain derived from the annual grass Hordeum vulgare.

Barley has many uses. It serves as a major animal fodder, as a base malt for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods. It is used in soups and stews, and in barley bread of various cultures, from Scotland to Africa.

In a 2007 ranking of cereal crops in the world, barley was fourth both in terms of quantity produced (136 million tons) and in area of cultivation (566,000 km²).[2]



The Oxford English Dictionary records the derivation from the Old English bærlic "barley", although the -lic ending may indicate it was an adjective pertaining to the crop or plant, rather than a noun. It was first recorded around 966 CE in the compound word bærlic-croft.[3] The old English word was bære, which was related to the Latin word farina "flour", and gave rise to bærlic meaning "of barley".[4] It survives in the north of Scotland as bere, and refers to a specific strain of six-row barley grown there.[5][6][7] The word barn, which originally meant barley-house, is also rooted in these words.[4]


Barley is a member of the grass family. It is a self-pollinating, diploid species with 14 chromosomes. The wild ancestor of domesticated barley, Hordeum vulgare subsp. spontaneum, is abundant in grasslands and woodlands throughout the Fertile Crescent and is abundant in disturbed habitats, roadsides and orchards. Outside of this region the wild barley is less common and is usually found in disturbed habitats.[8]


Wild barley has a brittle spike; upon maturity, the spikelets separate, facilitating seed dispersal. Domesticated barley has non-shattering spikes, making it much easier to harvest the mature ears.[8] The non-shattering condition is caused by a mutation in one of two tightly linked genes known as Bt1 and Bt2; many cultivars possess both mutations. The non-shattering condition is recessive, so varieties of barley that exhibit this condition are homozygous for the mutant allele.[8]

Two row and six row barley

Two-row and six-row barley

Spikelets are arranged in triplets which alternate along the rachis. In wild barley (and other Old World species of Hordeum) only the central spikelet is fertile, while the other two are reduced. This condition is retained in certain cultivars known as two-row barleys. A pair of mutations (one dominant, the other recessive) result in fertile lateral spikelets. This produces six-row barleys. (See Cultivars).[8] Recent genetic studies have revealed a mutation in one gene, vrs1 is responsible for the transition from two-row to six-row barley[9]

Two-row barley has a lower protein content than six-row barley and thus more fermentable sugar content. High protein barley is best suited for animal feed. Malting barley is usually lower protein [10] ('low grain nitrogen', usually produced without a late fertilizer application) which shows more uniform germination, needs shorter steeping, and has less protein in the extract that can make beer cloudy. Two-row barley is traditionally used in English ale style beers. Six-row barley is common in some American lager style beers, especially when adjuncts such as corn and rice are used, whereas two-row malted summer barley is preferred for traditional German beers. Four-row is unsuitable for brewing.

Hulled and naked barley

Hulless or "naked" barley (Hordeum vulgare L. var. nudum Hook. f.) is a form of domesticated barley with an easier to remove hull. Naked barley is an ancient food crop, but a new industry has developed around uses of selected hulless barley in order to increase the digestible energy of the grain, especially for swine and poultry.[11] Hulless barley has been investigated for several potential new applications as whole grain, and for its value-added products. These include bran and flour for multiple food applications.[12]


In traditional classifications of barley these morphological differences have led to different forms of barley being classified as different species. Under these classifications two-rowed barley with shattering spikes (wild barley) is classified as Hordeum spontaneum K.Koch. Two-rowed barley with non-shattering spikes is classified as H. distichum L., six-rowed barley with non-shattering spikes as H. vulgare L. (or H. hexastichum L.), and six-rowed with shattering spikes as H. agriocrithon Åberg.

The fact that these differences were driven by single-gene mutations, coupled with cytological and molecular evidence, has led most recent classifications to treat these forms as a single species, H. vulgare L.[8]


An account of barley rations issued monthly to adults (30 or 40 pints) and children (20 pints) written in Cuneiform on clay tablet, written in year 4 of King Urukagina (circa 2350 BCE). From Ngirsu, Iraq. British Museum, London.

Barley was the first domesticated grain in the Near East[13], near the same time as einkorn and emmer wheat.[14] Wild barley (H. vulgare ssp. spontaneum) ranges from North Africa and Crete in the west, to Tibet in the east.[8] The earliest evidence of wild barley in an archaeological context comes from the Epipaleolithic at Ohalo II at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. The remains were dated to about 17000 BCE.[8] The earliest domesticated barley occurs at Aceramic Neolithic sites, in the Near East such as the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B layers of Tell Abu Hureyra, in Syria. Barley has been grown in the Korean Peninsula since the Early Mumun Pottery Period (c. 1500–850 BCE) along with other crops such as millet, wheat, and legumes.[15]

In the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond argues that the availability of barley, along with other domesticable crops and animals, in southwestern Eurasia significantly contributed to the broad historical patterns that human history has followed over approximately the last 13,000 years; i.e., why Eurasian civilizations, as a whole, have survived and conquered others.[16]

Barley beer was probably the first drink developed by Neolithic humans.[17] Barley later on was used as currency.[17] Alongside emmer wheat, Barley was a staple cereal of ancient Egypt, where it was used to make bread and beer. The general name for barley is jt (hypothetically pronounced "eat"); šma (hypothetically pronounced "SHE-ma") refers to Upper Egyptian barley and is a symbol of Upper Egypt. The Sumerian term is akiti. According to Deuteronomy 8:8, barley is one of the "Seven Species" of crops that characterize the fertility of the Promised Land of Canaan, and barley has a prominent role in the Israelite sacrifices described in the Pentateuch (see e.g. Numbers 5:15). A religious importance extended into the Middle Ages in Europe, and saw barley's use in justice, via alphitomancy and the corsned.

Barley in Egyptian hieroglyphs
jt barley determinative/ideogram
jt (common) spelling
i t U9
šma determinative/ideogram

In ancient Greece, the ritual significance of barley possibly dates back to the earliest stages of the Eleusinian Mysteries. The preparatory kykeon or mixed drink of the initiates, prepared from barley and herbs, referred in the Homeric hymn to Demeter, whose name some scholars believe meant "Barley-mother".[18] The practice was to dry the barley groats and roast them before preparing the porridge, according to Pliny the Elder's Natural History (xviii.72). This produces malt that soon ferments and becomes slightly alcoholic.

Pliny also noted barley was a special food of gladiators known as hordearii, "barley-eaters". However, by Roman times, he added that wheat had replaced barley as a staple.[19]

Tibetan barley has been a staple food in Tibet since the fifth century A.D. It along with a cool climate that permitted storage, produced a civilization that was able to raise great armies.[20] It is made into a flour product called tsampa that is still a staple in Tibet,[21] and into hand-rolled balls.[20]

In medieval Europe, bread made from barley and rye was peasant food, while wheat products were consumed by the upper classes.[19] Potatoes largely replaced barley in Eastern Europe in the 19th century.[22]


Barley output in 2005. Dots are centred on the capital of each country and do not reflect the internal distribution of barley production within that country.
Top Ten Barley Producers — 2007
(million metric tonne)
 Russia 15.7
 Canada 11.8
 Spain 11.7
 Germany 11.0
 France 9.5
 Turkey 7.4
 Ukraine 6.0
 Australia 5.9
 United Kingdom 5.1
 United States 4.6
World Total 136
UN Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Barley was grown in about 100 countries worldwide in 2007. The world production in 1974 was 148,818,870 tonnes; since then, there has been a slight decline in the amount of barley produced worldwide.[19]

German botanical illustration of barley


Barley is a widely adaptable crop. It is currently popular in temperate areas where it is grown as a summer crop and tropical areas where it is sown as a winter crop. Its germination time is anywhere from 1 to 3 days. Barley likes to grow under cool conditions but is not particularly winter hardy.

Barley is more tolerant of soil salinity than wheat, which might explain the increase of barley cultivation in Mesopotamia from the 2nd millennium BC onwards. Barley is not as cold tolerant as the winter wheats (Triticum aestivum), fall rye (Secale cereale) or winter TriticaleTriticosecale Wittm. ex A. Camus.), but may be sown as a winter crop in warmer areas of the world such as Australia.

Barley has a short growing season and is also relatively drought tolerant.[19]

Plant diseases

This plant is known or likely to be susceptible to barley mild mosaic bymovirus[24][25] as well as bacterial blight. Barley can be susceptible to many diseases but plant breeders have been working hard to incorporate resistance. The devastation caused by any one disease will depend upon the susceptibility of the variety being grown and the environmental conditions during disease development.



Barley straw, in England, is placed in mesh bags and floated in fish ponds or water gardens to help reduce algal growth without harming pond plants and animals. Barley straw has not been approved by the EPA for use as a pesticide and its effectiveness as an algicide in ponds has produced mixed results during university testing in the US and the UK.[26]

Animal feed

Half of the United States' barley production is used as an animal feed.[27] Barley is an important feed grain in many areas of the world not typically suited for maize production, especially in northern climates - for example, northern and eastern Europe. Barley is the principal feed grain in Canada, Europe, and in the northern United States.[28] A finishing diet of barley is one of the defining characteristics of Western Canadian beef used in marketing campaigns.[29]

Alcoholic beverages

A large part of the remainder is used for malting, for which barley is the best suited grain.[30] It is a key ingredient in beer and whisky production. Two-row barley is traditionally used in German and English beers. Six-row barley was traditionally used in US beers, but both varieties are in common usage now.[31] Distilled from green beer,[32] whisky has been made from barley in Ireland and Scotland, while other countries have utilized more diverse sources of alcohol; such as the more common corn, rye and molasses in the USA. The grain name may be applied to the alcohol if it constitutes 51% or more of the ingredients.[33]

Non-alcoholic drinks such as barley water[4] and barley tea (called mugicha in Japan),[34] have been made by boiling barley in water. Barley wine was an alcoholic drink in the 1700s. It was prepared by boiling barley in water, then mixing the barley water with white wine and other ingredients like borage, lemon and sugar. In the 1800s a different barley wine was made prepared from recipes of ancient Greek origin.[4]


Barley, oats, and some products made from them
Raw barley
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 1,474 kJ (352 kcal)
Carbohydrates 77.7 g
Sugars 0.8 g
Dietary fiber 15.6 g
Fat 1.2 g
Protein 9.9 g
Thiamine (Vit. B1) 0.2 mg (15%)
Riboflavin (Vit. B2) 0.1 mg (7%)
Niacin (Vit. B3) 4.6 mg (31%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.3 mg (6%)
Vitamin B6 0.3 mg (23%)
Folate (Vit. B9) 23 μg (6%)
Vitamin C 0.0 mg (0%)
Calcium 29.0 mg (3%)
Iron 2.5 mg (20%)
Magnesium 79.0 mg (21%)
Phosphorus 221 mg (32%)
Potassium 280 mg (6%)
Zinc 2.1 mg (21%)
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient database

Barley contains eight essential amino acids.[35][36] According to a recent study, eating whole grain barley can regulate blood sugar (i.e. reduce blood glucose response to a meal) for up to 10 hours after consumption compared to white or even whole-grain wheat, which has a similar glycemic index.[37] The effect was attributed to colonic fermentation of indigestible carbohydrates. Barley can also be used as a coffee substitute.

Hulled barley (or covered barley) is eaten after removing the inedible, fibrous outer hull. Once removed, it is called dehulled barley (or pot barley or scotch barley).[38] Considered a whole grain, dehulled barley still has its bran and germ making it a nutritious and popular health food. Pearl barley (or pearled barley) is dehulled barley which has been steam processed further to remove the bran.[38] It may be polished, a process known as "pearling". Dehulled or pearl barley may be processed into a variety of barley products, including flour, flakes similar to oatmeal, and grits.

Barley-meal, a wholemeal barley flour which is lighter than wheatmeal but darker in colour, is used in porridge and gruel in Scotland.[38] Barley-meal gruel is known as Sawiq in the Arab world.[39] With a long history of cultivation in the Middle East, barley is used in a wide range of traditional Arabic, Kurdish, Persian, and Turkish foodstuffs including kashkak, kashk and murri. Barley soup is traditionally eaten during Ramadan in Saudi Arabia.[40] It is also used in soups and stews in Eastern Europe. In Africa, where it is a traditional food plant, it has the potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare.[41]

The six row variety bere is cultivated in Orkney, Shetland, Caithness and the Western Isles in the Scottish Highlands and islands. The grain is used to make beremeal, used locally in bread, biscuits, and the traditional beremeal bannock.[42]


Barley grains were used for measurement in England, there being 3 or 4 barleycorns to the inch and 4 or 5 poppy seeds to the barleycorn.[43] The statute definition of an inch was 3 barleycorns, although by the 19th century this had been superseded by standard inch measures.[44] This unit still persists in the shoe sizes which are used in Britain and the USA.[45]

The barleycorn was known as arpa in Turkish, and the feudal system in Turkey employed the term Arpalik, or "barley-money", to refer to a second allowance made to officials to offset the costs of fodder for their horses.[46]


A new stabilized variegated variety of Hordeum vulgare, billed as Hordeum vulgare varigate, has been introduced for cultivation as an ornamental and pot plant for pet cats to nibble on.[47]


The chlorophyll binding a/b protein is missing in albostrains of barley, and they have been used to study plastid development in plants. Researching white streaked strains, plant scientists have gained a greater understanding of reporter gene expression in the production of chloroplast proteins.[48]

Cultural significance

In Islam, the Prophet Muhammad prescribed barley for seven diseases.[49] It was also said to soothe and calm the bowels. Avicenna in his 11th century work The Canon of Medicine wrote of the healing effects of barley water, soup and broth for fevers.[50]

In English folklore, The figure of John Barleycorn in the folksong of the same name is a personification of barley, and of the alcoholic beverages made from it, beer and whiskey. In the song, John Barleycorn is represented as suffering attacks, death, and indignities that correspond to the various stages of barley cultivation, such as reaping and malting. He may be related to older pagan gods such as Mímir or Kvasir.[51]

See also


  1. ^ TSN 40865. Integrated Taxonomic Information System.
  2. ^ "FAOSTAT". Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Retrieved 2009-05-18. 
  3. ^ J. Simpson, E. Weiner (eds), ed (1989). "barley". Oxford English Dictionary (2nd edition ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-861186-2. 
  4. ^ a b c d Ayto, John (1990), The glutton's glossary : a dictionary of food and drink terms, London: Routledge, pp. 16–17, ISBN 0415026474, 
  5. ^ "Dictionary of the Scots Language: "DSL - SND1 BEAR, BERE, Beer, Bar"". Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  6. ^ Smout, T.C. (1972) A History of the Scottish People 1560-1830 p114
  7. ^ "Dictionary of the Scots Language: "DSL - DOST Bere, Beir"". Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Zohary, Daniel; Maria Hopf (2000). Domestication of Plants in the Old World: The Origin and Spread of Cultivated Plants in West Asia, Europe, and the Nile Valley (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 59–69. ISBN 0198503571.,+Europe,+and+the+Nile+Valley&source=gbs_search_r&cad=1_1. 
  9. ^ Komatsuda, T. (2006). "Six-rowed barley originated from a mutation in a homeodomain-leucine zipper I-class homeobox gene". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 104 (4): 1424–1429. doi:10.1073/pnas.0608580104. 
  10. ^ "Nitrogen Fertilizer Management of Malting Barley: Impacts of Crop and Fertilizer Nitrogen Prices (Prairie Provinces and Northern Great Plains States)". International Plant Nutrition Institute.$webindex/article=0EA04C0385256CF50062045A0D8E2931. Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  11. ^ Bhatty, R.S. (1999). "The potential of hull-less barley". Cereal Chemistry 76: 589–599. doi:10.1094/CCHEM.1999.76.5.589. 
  12. ^ Bhatty, R.S. (1999). "β-glucan and flour yield of hull-less barley". Cereal Chemistry 76: 314–315. doi:10.1094/CCHEM.1999.76.2.314. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ -Saltini Antonio, I semi della civiltà. Grano, riso e mais nella storia delle società umane,, prefazione di Luigi Bernabò Brea Avenue Media, Bologna 1996
  15. ^ Crawford, Gary W.; Gyoung-Ah Lee (2003). "Agricultural Origins in the Korean Peninsula". Antiquity 77 (295): 87–95. ISSN 0003-598X. 
  16. ^ Diamond, Jared M. (1997). Guns, germs, and steel: the fates of human societies. New York: W.W. Norton. pp. 141. ISBN 0-393-03891-2. 
  17. ^ a b Pellechia, Thomas (2006), Wine : the 8,000-year-old story of the wine trade, Philadelphia: Running Press, pp. 10, ISBN 1560258713,,M1 
  18. ^ J. Dobraszczyk, Bogdan (2001). Cereals and cereal products: chemistry and technology. Gaithersburg, Md.: Aspen Publishers. pp. 7. ISBN 0-8342-1767-8. 
  19. ^ a b c d McGee, p. 235
  20. ^ a b Fernandez, Felipe Armesto (2001), Civilizations: Culture, Ambition and the Transformation of Nature, pp. 265, ISBN 0743216504 
  21. ^ Dreyer, June Teufel; Sautman, Barry (2006), Contemporary Tibet : politics, development, and society in a disputed region, Armonk, New York: Sharpe, pp. 262, ISBN 0765613549,,&ei=dWu1SZDOG5X8ygSujrTEBg 
  22. ^ Roden, Claudia (1997). The Book of Jewish Food. Knopf. pp. 135. ISBN 0394532589. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ Brunt, A.A., Crabtree, K., Dallwitz, M.J., Gibbs, A.J., Watson, L. and Zurcher, E.J. (editors) (20 August 1996). "Plant Viruses Online: Descriptions and Lists from the VIDE Database". 
  25. ^ "Barley mild mosaic bymovirus". 
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Barley". Retrieved 2008-02-02. 
  28. ^ [1]
  29. ^ [2]
  30. ^ McGee, p. 471
  31. ^ Ogle, Maureen (2006), Ambitious brew : the story of American beer, Orlando: Harcourt, pp. 70–72, ISBN 0151010129,,M1 
  32. ^ McGee, p. 481
  33. ^ McGee, p. 490
  34. ^ Clarke, ed by R J (1988), Coffee, London: Elsevier Applied Science, pp. 84, ISBN 1851661034,,M1 
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^ Nilsson, A.; et al. (2006). "Effects of GI and content of indigestible carbohydrates of cereal-based evening meals on glucose tolerance at a subsequent standardised breakfast". European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 60: 1092–1099. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602423. 
  38. ^ a b c Simon, André (1963) Guide to Good Food and Wines: A Concise Encyclopedia of Gastronomy Complete and Unabridged p. 150 Collins, London
  39. ^ Tabari, W. Montgomery Watt, M. V. McDonald (1987). The History of Al-Tabari: The Foundation of the Community: Muhammad at Al-Madina, A. D. 622-626/ijrah-4 A. H.. SUNY Press. ISBN 0887063446, 9780887063442.,M1. 
  40. ^ Long, David E. (2005). Culture and customs of Saudi Arabia. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 50. ISBN 0313320217. 
  41. ^ National Research Council (1996-02-14). "Other Cultivated Grains". Lost Crops of Africa: Volume I: Grains. Lost Crops of Africa. 1. National Academies Press. pp. 243. ISBN 978-0-309-04990-0. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  42. ^ Martin, Peter; Xianmin Chang (2008-06). "Bere Whisky: rediscovering the spirit of an old barley". The Brewer & Distiller International 4 (6): 41–43. Retrieved 2008-11-14. 
  43. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 2009, 
  44. ^ George Long (1842), The Penny Cyclopædia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, p. 436, 
  45. ^ Cairns, Warwick (2007). About the Size of It. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-01628-6. 
  46. ^ Houtsma M Th; Arnold TW, Wensinck AJ (1993). E.J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936. Brill. pp. 460. ISBN 9004097961. 
  47. ^
  48. ^ The Changing Scenario in Plant Sciences. Allied Publishers Pvt. Ltd.. 2000. pp. 299. ISBN 81-7764-021-6. 
  49. ^ Hadith. Volume 7, Book 71, Number 593: (Narrated 'Ursa)
  50. ^ Scully, Terence; Dumville DN (1997). The art of cookery in the Middle Ages. Boydell Press. pp. 187–88. ISBN 0851154301. 
  51. ^ de Vries, Ad (1976). Dictionary of Symbols and Imagery. Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Company. pp. 34–35. ISBN 0-7204-8021-3. 

Cited texts

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BARLEY (Hordeum sativum), a member of the grass family, and an important cereal which belongs peculiarly to temperate regions. It originated from a wild species, H. spontaneum, a native of western Asia and has been cultivated from the earliest times. Three subspecies or races are recognized. (i.) H. sativum, subsp. distichum (described by Linnaeus as a distinct species, H. distichon), two-rowed barley. Only the middle spikelet of each triplet is fertile; the ear has therefore only two longitudinal rows of grain, and the spikes are strongly compressed laterally. This approaches most nearly to the wild stock, from which it is distinguished by the non-jointed axis and somewhat shorter awns. This is the race most commonly grown in the British Isles and in central Europe, and includes a large number of sub-races and varieties among which are the finest malting barleys. The chief sub-races are (a) peacock, fan or battledore barley, described by Linnaeus as a distinct species, H. zeocriton, with erect short ears about 22 in. long, broad at the base and narrow at the tip, suggesting an open fan or peacock's tail; (b) erect-eared barleys (var. erectum) with erect broad ears and closely-packed plump grains; (c) nodding barleys (var. nutans). The ripe ears of the last hang so as to become almost parallel with the stem; they are narrower and longer than in (b), owing to the grains being placed farther apart on the rachis; it includes the Chevalier variety, one of the best for malting purposes. (ii.) H. sativum, subsp. hexastichum, six-rowed barley (the H. hexastichon of Linnaeus). All the flowers of each triplet of spikelets on both sides of the rachis are fertile and produce ripe fruits; hence the ear produces six longitudinal rows of grain. The ears are short, erect, and the grain thin and coarse; the straw is also short. It is a hardy race, but owing to the poor quality of the grain is rarely met with in Great Britain. (iii.) H. sativum, subsp. vulgare, bere, bigg or four-rowed barley (the H. vulgare of Linnaeus). All the flowers of each triplet are fertile as in (ii.), but the rows are not arranged regularly at equal distances round the rachis. The central fruits of each triplet form two regular rows, but the lateral spikelets form not four straight single rows as in (ii.), but two regular double rows, the whole ear appearing irregularly four-rowed. This race seems to be of later origin than the others. The ears are erect, about 22 in. long, the grains thinner and longer than in the two-rowed race, and the awns stiff and firmly adhering to the flowering glume. The var. pallidum is the barley most frequently cultivated in northern Europe and northern Asia. This race was formerly used for malt and beer, but owing to its larger amount of gluten as compared with starch it is less adapted for brewing than the two-rowed sorts. To this belong the varieties naked barley (H. coeleste and H. nudum) and Himalayan barley (H. trifurcatum and H. aegiceras). In both the fruits fall out freely from the glume, and in the latter the awns are three-pronged and shorter than the grain.

Barley is the most hardy of all cereal grains, its limit of cultivation extending farther north than any other; and, at the same time, it can be profitably cultivated in sub-tropical countries. The opinion of Pliny, that it is the most ancient aliment of mankind, appears to be well-founded, for no less than three varieties have been found in the lake dwellings of Switzerland, in deposits belonging to the Stone Period. According to Professor Heer these varieties are the common two-rowed (H. distichum), the large six-rowed (H. hexastichum, var. densum), and the small six-rowed (H. hexastichum, var. sanctum). The last variety is both the most ancient and the most commonly found, and is the sacred barley of antiquity, ears of which are frequently represented plaited in the hair of the goddess Ceres, besides being figured on ancient coins. The cultivation of barley in ancient Egypt is indicated in Exod. ix. 31. Till within recent times barley formed an important source of food in northern countries, and barley cakes are still to some extent eaten. Owing, however, to its poverty in that form of nitrogenous compound called gluten, so abundant in wheat, barley-flour cannot be baked into vesiculated bread; still it is a highlynutritious substance, the salts it contains having a high proportion of phosphoric acid. The following is the composition of barley-meal according to Von Bibra, omitting the salts:

Water . 15 per cent.
Nitrogenous compounds . 12 981
Gum . 744
Sugar . 3.200
Starch 59.950
Fat . . 2.170

Barley is now chiefly cultivated for malting (see Malt) to prepare spirits and beer (see Brewing), but it is also largely employed in domestic cookery. For the latter purpose the hard, somewhat flinty grains are preferable, and they are prepared by grinding off the outer cuticle which forms " pot barley." When the attrition is carried further, so that the grain is reduced to small round pellets, it is termed " pearl barley." Patent barley is either pot or pearl barley reduced to flour. Under the name decoctum hordei, a preparation of barley is included in the British Pharmacopoeia, which is of value as a demulcent and emollient drink in febrile and inflammatory disorders.


Apart from the growth-habits of the plant itself, the consideration that chiefly determines the routine of barley cultivation is the demand on the part of the maltster for uniformity of sample. Less care is required in its cultivation when it is intended for feeding live-stock. It is essential that the grains on the maltster's floor should germinate simultaneously, hence at the time of reaping, the whole crop must be as nearly as possible in the same stage of maturity. On rich soils the crop is liable to grow too rapidly and yield a"coarse, uneven sample, consequently the best barley is grown on light, open and preferably calcareous soils, while if the condition of the soil is too high it is often reduced by growing wheat before the barley.

Barley (see Agriculture, Crops and Cropping) is a rapidlygrowing and shallow-rooted plant. The upper layer of the soil must therefore be free from weeds, finely pulverized and stocked with a readily-available supply of nutriment. In most rotations barley is grown after turnips, or some other " cleaning " crop, with or without the interposition of a wheat crop. The roots are fed off by sheep during autumn and early winter, after which the ground is ploughed to a depth of 3 or 4 in. only in order not to put the layer of soil fertilized by the sheep beyond reach of the plant. The ground is then left unworked and open to the crumbling influence of frost till towards the end of winter, when it is stirred with the cultivator followed by the harrows, or in some cases ploughed with a shallow furrow. The seed, which should be plump, light in colour, with a thin skin covered by fine wrinkles, is sown in March and early April at the rate of from 8 to 2 pecks to the acre and lightly harrowed in. As even distribution at a uniform depth is necessary, the drill is preferred to the broadcast-seeder for barley sowing. In early districts seeding may take place as early as February, provided a fine tilth is obtainable, but it rarely extends beyond the end of April. If artificial manures are used, a usual dressing consists of 2 or 3 cwt. of superphosphate to the acre at the time of sowing, followed, if the ground is in poor condition, by cwt. of nitrate of soda when the plant is showing. Nitrogen must, however, be applied with caution as it makes the barley rich in albumen, and highly albuminous barley keeps badly and easily loses its germinating capacity. Farm-yard manure should also be avoided. After-cultivation may comprise rolling, harrowing (to preserve the fineness of the tilth) and in some districts hoeing. Barley is cut, either with scythe or machine, when it is quite ripe with the ears bending over. The crop is often allowed to lie loose for a day or two, owing to the belief that sunshine and dews or even showers mellow it and improve its colour. It may eve nbe stacked without tying into sheaves, though this course involves greater expenditure of labour in carrying and afterwards in threshing. There is a prejudice against the use of the binder in reaping barley, as it is impossible to secure uniformity of colour in the grain when the stalks are tightly tied in the sheaf, and the sun has not free access to those on the inside. In any case it must not be stacked while damp, and if cut by machine is therefore sometimes tied in sheaves and set up in stooks as in the case of wheat. The above sketch indicates the general principles of barley-cultivation, but in practice they are often modified by local custom or farming exigencies.

Barley is liable to smut and the other fungus diseases which attack wheat, and the insect pests which prey on the two plants are also similar. The larvae of the ribbon-footed corn-fly (Chlorops taeniopus) caused great injury to the barley crop in Great Britain in 1893, when the plant was weakened by extreme drought. A fair crop of barley yields about 36 bushels ,(56 lb to the bushel) per acre, but under the best conditions 40 and 50 bushels may be obtained. The yield of straw is from 15 to 20 cwt. per acre. Barley-straw is considered inferior both as fodder and litter.

1 Barley is occasionally sown in autumn to provide keep for sheep in the following spring.

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Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

a grain much cultivated in Egypt (Ex 9:31) and in Palestine (Lev 27:16; Deut 8:8). It was usually the food of horses (1 Kg 4:28). Barley bread was used by the poorer people (Jdg 7:13; 2Kg 4:42). Barley of the first crop was ready for the harvest by the time of the Passover, in the middle of April (Ruth 1:22; 2 Sam 21:9). Mention is made of barley-meal (Num 5:15). Our Lord fed five thousand with "five barley loaves and two small fishes" (Jn 6:9).

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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Simple English

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Liliopsida
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Genus: Hordeum
Species: H. vulgare
Binomial name
Hordeum vulgare

Barley is a type of plant. Its seeds are a cereal grain. It is eaten by humans and other animals, and it is one of mankind's oldest crops. It can be made into flour or beer.

Its Latin name is Hordeum vulgare. Barley is an annual plant.


The world's biggest barley producers (2007)
 Rang  Country  quantity 
(in t)
 rank  Country  quantity 
(in t)
   1 File:Flag of Russia (bordered).svg    15.663.110    9     5.149.000
   2     11.822.100    10     4.611.940
   3     11.684.000    11 File:Flag of Poland (bordered).svg    4.065.800
   4     11.034.200    12 File:Flag of the People'    3.851.000
   5     9.472.000    13     3.104.200
   6     7.423.000    14     3.000.000
   7     6.000.000    15     2.600.000
   8     5.920.000     World    136.207.179


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