What’s with the barley? Some may say I need to get out more. Others may be quite mystified by my fascination with this summer’s crop in Townsend Meadow behind the house. In my defence I have to say that this particular grain is so very lovely on the stem. Also this is the first year it’s been grown in the field while we have lived here. And then there’s the fact that barley-growing has great heritage: around 10,000 years ago its evolution played a key role in the development of hunter-humans to farmer-humans; the wild grasses (including wheat) of the Middle Eastern plains transforming themselves into useful food crops. This happened (most probably) by some accidental selection wherein some plants for some reason failed to shed their grains as their wild forebears did, and so could be harvested. Then it was discovered (again perhaps by accident) that any of a stored crop not eaten could be saved and sown and produce similarly cooperative plants. It was the beginning of settled living – the creation and management of fields.
These days in the UK, barley is still a common food staple. But most important of all, when malted, it is an essential ingredient in the making of British ale. And until fairly modern times ale was the drink of necessity, even for children, in the absence of clean water supplies. So: now you’ve had the barley-praise. Here are the pictures.
Copyright 2021 Tish Farrell