Barley is a cereal grain included in the grass family, and was one of the first grains to be cultivated. It is self-pollinating, and domesticated barley is derived from the wild strain Hordeum vulgare.
There are three classes of domesticated Barley, namely two-row, six-row and hulless Barley. Two-row Barley contains less protein and is used in ale beers, while six-row Barley is high in protein content and is used in American lager beers. Hulless Barley, also referred to as “naked” barley, has a hull that is more easily removable in the harvesting process. It provides a more digestible grain which is often used for swine and poultry.
Barley flour is made by grinding the whole barley grain, and is used as a substitute for other flours used in baking, as it is a healthier alternative with more fibre and less calories.
Barley was first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent, near the Nile river of Africa. The earliest evidence of Barley dates back to 8500 years ago at Neolithic sites in Syria. Barley is noted as a significant factor in the survival of Eurasian civilizations.
Barley was used in one of the first alcohol drinks, Barley beer, and was a staple cereal of ancient Egypt. Later, in medieval Europe, bread was made from barley and rye for lower class citizens, while wheat was reserved for those of the upper class.