History of barley

Importance of barley along the history


Barley in ancient times

Barley is mentioned in the Bible. For example, in Chapter VIII of Deuteronomy Moses points to the benefits received from God in the Wilderness. It says:

“For the Lord your God into a good land, a land of brooks of water sources that flow depths of valleys and hills. A land of wheat and barley and vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of Olive oil and eat honey “

The ancient Egyptians used it in their table, but preferred wheat, because this cereal by itself is inappropriate to make bread since it has a low gluten content. Yet, they produced unleavened bread (flatbread) with it.

The importance of this cereal in the Egyptian world was based on brewing. To do this, they left to ferment barley bread in water.

Barley in the Greek culture

Greek culture gave more importance to the use of barley than the Egyptian one.

Their diet was based mainly on this cereal. Breads were made with refined flour in which barley mixed with wheat for a better bread flow.

The following extract of the Greek writer Homer (VIII century BC) in the Iliad provides a clear example of the importance of rice in their culture. In fact barley qualifies as “sacred” because the Greeks used in sacrifices and offerings to the gods.

“He first set a beautiful table with dark blue enamel legs, well polished, and in it a bronze fountain with onions to accompany the drink and golden honey and sacred grains of barley”

No less interesting is this comment that the Greek philosopher Socrates in Plato devoted his Republic or seminars on justice

“Let’s start by looking back into the kind of life that will lead the people of this city. His first care will be edibles, dress, shoes, wine and accommodation. They will work in summer more often naked and barefoot, in the winter with clothes and shoes. For livelihood breads and delicious cakes prepared in the ground and kneaded wheat flour and barley. “

Barley for the Roman empire


Drawing of two ears of this cereal

No less important was the barley for the Romans. These learned to make bread of the Greeks. Like them the bread flourcontaining various cereals, including barley, had an important role.

The Romans knew the food properties of barley. They knew their nutritional value and its ability to provide energy on an ongoing basis. Do not forget that barley was a food base for gladiators who were called hordearii (Those who eat barley)

Barley as a food for poor people

Outside the classical world, barley became less important as food. Wheat took his place, especially in the wealthier classes.

Barley was considered as a more suitable food for livestock, or a food for the lower classes or as a general resource in the event of difficult periods in which wheat was scarce.

In cold areas of eastern Europe barley has been a staple food until the nineteenth century, when its importance has been overtaken by potatoes.

Importance of barley nowadays

Currently, used as a cereal to make bread is very limited, except in populations in Tibet, where it is the main food as other grains can not be cultivated due to a very cold climate.

With roasted barley flour Tibetans prepare tsampa, the main dish of food. This is usually done by introducing a handful of barley flour in a bowl with some tea. Then stir it with the fingers to make a more or less consistent paste.

This food also forms the basis of their diet. It is used in Buddhist ceremonies, anniversaries, birthdays and funerals. It is the staple food of the Sherpas, to whom it provides a great energy.

Equally crucial is its consumption within the Berber population of the Maghreb.

punto rojo More information on barley.

This article was endorsed by Elisenda Carballido - Dietitian nutritionist. Postgraduate in Phytotherapy and master in Nutrition and Metabolism.
Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

14 June, 2021

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