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Barley Month – February 2023

Barley Month, held annually in February, celebrates the barley plant. Barley is a member of the grass family and is a cereal grain that is grown in temperate climates all across the globe. Barley was one of the first cultivated grains, especially in Eurasia as early as 10,000 years ago. About 70% of the world’s barley is used as animal fodder, while 30% serves as a source of fermentable material for making beer and certain distilled beverages, as well as a component of various foods. Barley is used in soups and stews, as well as in barley bread made in different cultures. It is common for barley grains to be made into malt through traditional preparation methods.

History of Barley Month

Barley was one of the first domesticated grains in the Fertile Crescent, an area of relatively abundant water in Western Asia, close to the Nile river of northeast Africa. Barley appeared at the same time as einkorn and emmer wheat. Wild barley commonly grows in North Africa and Crete in the west, all the way to Tibet in the east. The earliest known archeological evidence of wild barley consumption is from the Epipaleolithic at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, where grinding stones with traces of starch were found. The remains were dated to about 23,000 B.C.

The earliest evidence of the domestication of barley as cultivars incapable of reproduction without human assistance comes from Mesopotamia, specifically the Jarmo region of what is now modern-day Iraq, sometime between 9000 B.C. and 7000 B.C. Barley being one of the most important crops in the world, it was domesticated in the Near East around 11,000 years ago (about 9000 B.C.). It is a highly resilient crop that can be cultivated in varied and marginal environments, such as in regions of high altitude and latitude.

Archeo-botanical evidence shows that by 2000 B.C., barley had spread throughout Eurasia. To further explicate the routes via which the cultivation of barley was spread through Eurasia, genetic analysis was used to determine the genetic diversity and population structure in existing barley taxa. The result of this analysis shows that cultivated barley spread through Eurasia via several different routes, which were most likely separated in both time and space. In medieval Europe, barley was not regarded highly and food such as bread made from barley and rye was considered peasant food, while the upper class consumed wheat products. Potatoes largely replaced barley in Eastern Europe during the 19th century.

Barley Month timeline

23,000 B.C.
The Earliest Evidence of Wild Barley Consumption

The earliest archaeological evidence of the consumption of wild barley is discovered.

9000 B.C.
The Earliest Evidence of Domestic Barley Consumption

The earliest known evidence of the consumption of domestic barley as it is known today is discovered.

2000 B.C.
Barley Spreads Through Eurasia

Barley spreads through Eurasia via many routes separated by space and time.

1800s
Barley is Replaced By Potatoes

Barley is largely replaced by potatoes in most households.

Barley Month FAQs

What is Barley Month?

Barley Month is celebrated in February to celebrate the grain and all of its benefits.

Is barley edible?

Not exactly, no. Not for humans anyway. Barley is usually processed and used to make products suitable for human ingestion. Herbivorous animals can eat raw barley though.

What products are made with barley?

Products such as beer and some distilled non-alcoholic beverages use barley in the production process.

Barley Month Activities

  1. Visit a barley farm

    Visit a barley farm. Let the farmers take you through the cultivation process.

  2. Drink a beverage made with barley

    Well, it is Barley Month. So go ahead and drink some beer or other beverage with barley as one of its ingredients.

  3. Join the conversation online

    Join the conversation online. Use the #BarleyMonth hashtag.

5 Interesting Facts About Barley

  1. Barley is a temperate crop

    Barley is a temperate crop and as such, is grown mostly in Europe and some parts of North America and Asia, or other regions with a temperate climate.

  2. A self-pollinating crop

    Barley is a self-pollinating crop that is a member of the grass family.

  3. Barley is very resilient

    Barley is so resilient that it is capable of being grown in regions with high altitudes.

  4. It was once considered peasant food

    In Medieval Europe, barley was relegated to the status of peasant food while upper-class people consumed wheat.

  5. The biggest barley producer

    Between 2019 and 2020, the European Union was the world’s biggest producer and supplier of barley.

Why We Love Barley Month

  1. Barley is useful for livestock

    Barley can be used as fodder for livestock. This helps to keep the ecosystem going.

  2. It’s a part of everyday living

    We find barley in products such as the beverages we consume every so often. It’s a part of our daily lives more or less.

  3. Barley contains fiber

    Barley contains up to 17% fiber. This is very beneficial to the human body.

Barley Month dates

YearDateDay
2023February 1Wednesday
2024February 1Thursday
2025February 1Saturday
2026February 1Sunday
2027February 1Monday
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