Barley's history

Barley - an ancient crop

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Barley hasn't had any of the marked mutations that we see in wheat so it's still very similar to early cultivars.

Both 2 & 6 row barley grew wild in Palestine and were cultivated throughout Neolithic Eurasia. They were evolved by Neolithic farmers into Hordeum tetrastichum the ancestor of modern varieties. It formed about 10% of the food grains of Neolithic farmers.

Barley and Emmer wheat were the first cereals cultivated in the Middle East. Barley is derived from a wild species similar to Hordeum spontaneum, which occurs widely in Turkey and Syria. Development of a tough rachis (preventing the premature scattering of the grains) was the morphological change that made domestication worthwhile 10-9,000 years ago.

While the grains of all cultivars grown in Britain and most of Europe retain the palea, 'naked' barleys with more than 3 fertile flowers/spikelet are grown in Asia and parts of Russia.

A Natural History of Man in Britain - Fleure & Davies
A Field Guide to the Crops of Britain and Europe - G M de Rougemont
Foragers and Farmers - Gregg

Sarah Wroot
David Pickersgill