Post image for Barley ripening

Barley ripening

March 25, 2009

in Flora & fauna

Mankind and barley have a long, shared history. It is one of the first grasses domesticated by man, and has been used widely for both bread and beer since Neolithic times. Its usefulness a food source has contributed to our success, and it has been used in ritual and as money. However, other foods such as wheat and potatoes have became more popular, and now barley is mostly grown for animal feed.

Barley remains a key ingredient for making beer and whisky, in most cases being malted before fermentation. The malting process involves soaking the grains and allowing them to partially germinate, before drying and toasting in a kiln. Germinating seeds produce enzymes ready to convert their starches into sugars, and these sugars are vital for fermenting beer and whisky. Barley has a very high level of these enzymes, making the fermentation much quicker than other grains.

This photograph of barley was taken in midsummer, just as it was ripening. Most of the field was already gold and the stalks were arched over with the weight of grain. Here and there a few youthful green stalks were still standing tall over the rest.

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