CROP OF THE WEEK: 6-ROW BARLEY
• Barley was first discovered growing as a wild grass throughout Asia thousands of years ago. It was later cultivated and consumed by the Chinese as one of their first commercially-grown commodities. Egyptians and Greeks in ancient times consumed barley for medicinal purposes as well as for a nourishing food source. It is thought that this grain made its way to North America with Christopher Columbus on his journey to the New World.
• In Athens barley was the special food of the gladiators – the hordearii or “barley-eaters.”
• In 2007, Yuma County produced more than 4,200 tons of barley on about 2,000 acres valued at just over $500,0000.
• Barley grown for brewers malt is called malting barley, as opposed to feed barley, and is divided into two general types: 2-row and 6-row. The most obvious difference between a head of 2-row barley and a head of 6-row barley is the arrangement of the kernels when the head is viewed down its axis. In general, 6-row malted barley has more protein and enzyme content than 2-row malted barley, is thinner and contains less carbohydrate. There are also flavor differences between 2-row and 6-row and it seems that most brewers feel 2-row malt produces a fuller, maltier flavor and 6-row malt produces a grainier flavor in a finished beer.
• Malt is produced by steeping barley (or other grain) in water until it germinates and then roasting and crushing it in a mill. It is used in brewing and distilling, and in malted milk drinks. Malt has a high protein and carbohydrate content.
• Barley for human food is made into pearl barley by using abrasive disks to grind the hulls and bran off the kernels. After three or grinding operations all the hull and most of the bran is removed and the remaining kernel part is known as pot barley. Two or three additional pearlings produce pearl barley, in which most of the embryo is removed. These later pearlings also produce barley flour. Pot and pearl barley are used in soups and dressings. Barley flour can be used in baby foods and breakfast cereals, or mixed with wheat flour in baking.
• Half or more of the barley grown in the United States is used for livestock feed. As feed it is nearly equal in nutritive value to kernel corn. It is especially valuable as hog feed, giving desirable portions of firm fat and lean meat.
• In about 1305, Edward I of England decreed that one inch should be the measure of three barleycorns, and English shoe sizing began. Thus a child's shoe that measured 13 barleycorns became a size 13.
Source: Kurt Nolte is an agriculture agent and Yuma County Cooperative Extension director. He can be reached at email@example.com or 726-3904.