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Facts on Barley

Barley (Hordeum vulgare) is a major food and animal feed crop, a member of the grass family Poaceae. In 2004 barley ranked fourth in area of cultivation of cereal crops in the world (570,000 km?) FAOSTAT. Its germination time is anywhere from 1-3 days.

History
Cultivated barley is descended from wild barley (Hordeum spontaneum), which still grows wild in the Middle East. Both forms are diploid (2n=14 chromosomes). As wild barley is interfertile with domesticated barley, the two forms are often treated as one species, divided into Hordeum vulgare subsp. spontaneum and H. vulgare subsp. vulgare. The major difference between wild and domesticated barley is the brittle rachis of the former, which is conducive to seed dispersal in the wild. The earliest finds of wild barley come from Epi-Paleolithic sites in the Levant, beginning in the Natufian. The first domesticated barley has been found in the Aceramic Neolithic layers (PPN B) of Tell Abu Hureyra in Syria. It was one of the first crops domesticated in the Near East. Barley's domestication seems to be contemporaneous to that of wheat.

Barley was the staple of ancient Egypt, where it was used to make bread and beer; together, these were a complete diet. The general name for barley is jt (hypothetically pronounced "eat"); sma (hypothetically pronounced "SHE-ma") refers to Upper Egyptian barley and is a symbol of Upper Egypt.
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, was referred to in the Homeric hymn to Demeter, who was also called "Barley-mother".

Greek 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 a malt that soon ferments and becomes slightly alcoholic.
Tibetan barley has been the only major staple food in Tibet for centuries.
Palaeoethnobotanists have found that barley has been grown in the Korean Peninsula since the Early Mumun Pottery Period (c. 1500-850 B.C.) along with other crops such as millet, wheat, and legumes.

Cultivars
Barley can be divided by the number of kernel rows in the head. Three forms have been cultivated; two-row barley (traditionally known as Hordeum distichum), four-row (Hordeum tetrastichum) and six-row barley (Hordeum vulgare). In two-row barley only one spikelet is fertile, in the four-row and six-row forms, all three are fertile.

Two-row barley is the oldest form, wild barley having two rows as well. Two-row barley has a lower protein content than six-row barley but a higher enzyme content. High protein barley is best suited for animal feed or malt that has a large adjunct content. Two-row barley is best suited for pure malts.
There are naked and hulled barleys, the hulled barleys being the older forms.
Barley is widely adaptable and is currently a major crop of the temperate and tropical areas.

Production
The 2004 world production of barley according to FAOSTAT was as follows:

  1. Russian Federation 17,179,740 tons
  2. Canada 13,186,400 tons
  3. Germany 12,993,000 tons
  4. Ukraine 11,068,800 tons
  5. France 11,040,214 tons
  6. Spain 10,608,700 tons
  7. Turkey 9,000,000 tons
  8. Australia 6,454,000 tons
  9. USA 6,080,020 tons
  10. UK 5,860,000 tons

The total world production for 2004 was 153,624,393 tons. The world production in 1974 was 148,818,870 tons, an increase of a mere 3.2%.

Yield
The average yield in 2004 was 268.04 tons per square kilometer, while in 1974 was 195.25 t/km?, an improvement of 37%. The production in 2004 was as follows:

  1. France 677.32 t/km?
  2. UK 582.51 t/km?
  3. Germany 581.08 t/km?
  4. USA 373.64 t/km?
  5. Spain 334.62 t/km?
  6. Canada 325.62 t/km?
  7. Turkey 257.14 t/km?
  8. Ukraine 245.35 t/km?
  9. Australia 179.83 t/km?
  10. Russian Federation 179.66 t/km?

Uses
Oats, barley, and some products made from them.Barley is a staple food for humans and other animals. It is more tolerant of soil salinity than wheat, which might explain the increase of barley cultivation on Mesopotamia from the 2nd millennium BC onwards. Barley can still thrive in conditions that are too cold even for rye. Malting barley is a key ingredient in beer and whiskey production.

The 1881 Household Cyclopedia adds: Next to wheat the most valuable grain is barley, especially on light and sharp soils. It is a tender grain and easily hurt in any of the stages of its growth, particularly at seed time; a heavy shower of rain will then almost ruin a crop on the best prepared land; and in all the after processes greater pains and attention are required to ensure success than in the case of other grains. The harvest process is difficult, and often attended with danger; even the threshing of it is not easily executed with machines, because the awn generally adheres to the grain, and renders separation from the straw a troublesome task. Barley, in fact, is raised at greater expense than wheat, and generally speaking is a more hazardous crop. Except upon rich and genial soils, where climate will allow wheat to be perfectly reared, it ought not to be cultivated.

Preparation of ground
Barley is chiefly taken after turnips, sometimes after peas and beans, but rarely by good farmers either after wheat or oats, unless under special circumstances. When sown after turnips it is generally taken with one furrow, which is given as fast as the turnips are consumed, the ground thus receiving much benefit from the spring frosts. But often two, or more furrows are necessary for the fields last consumed, because when a spring drought sets in, the surface, from being poached by the removal or consumption of the crop, gets so hardened as to render a greater quantity of plowing, harrowing and rolling necessary than would otherwise be called for. When sown after beans and peas, one winter and one spring plowing are usually bestowed: but when after wheat or oats, three plowings are necessary, so that the ground may be put in proper condition. These operations are very ticklish in a wet and backward season, and rarely in that case is the grower paid for the expense of his labor. Where land is in such a situation as to require three plowings before it can be seeded with barley, it is better to summer-fallow it at once than to run the risks which seldom fail to accompany a quantity of spring labor. If the weather be dry, moisture is lost during the different processes, and an imperfect braird necessarily follows; if it be wet the benefit of plowing is lost, and all the evils of a wet seed time are sustained by the future crop.

The quantity sown is different in different cases, according to the quality of the soil and other circumstances. Upon very rich lands eight pecks per acre are sometimes sown; twelve is very common, and upon poor land more is sometimes given.

By good judges a quantity of seed is sown sufficient to ensure a full crop, without depending on its sending out offsets; indeed, where that is done few offsets are produced, the crop grows and ripens equally, and the grain is uniformly good. The small bristles on the top of the barley are called 'awn'

Barley water is often used as a base for cordials in the UK. Roasted barley is also made into a hot drink in some parts of the world. In Italy, for instance, a "caffe d'orzo" is an espresso style drink made from ground roasted barley. When prepared from the roasted barley directly, it can be made in many standard espresso or coffee makers. Although traditionally considered a coffee substitute for children, it is an increasingly common choice in Italy and other places for those who choose to eschew coffee for health reasons. In the United States, instant roasted barley drinks are sold under the name of "Postum", "Pero", and others, including varieties of "cafe de cebada" in Latin American markets.

In countries across Asia, the Chinese believe that drinking a concoction of barley and rock sugar is generally useful for relieving "heatiness" in the body. A cupful of barley boiled with 20 cups of water together with screwpine (pandan) leaves gives a delicious and "cooling" drink. In Japan, barley tea is called mugicha, and in Korea it is called bori cha.

 

  Copyright © 2006 Andy's Market. This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Barley".


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