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Hordeum vulgare - L.

Common Name Barley, Common barley
Family Poaceae or Gramineae
USDA hardiness 4-8
Known Hazards Exposure to barley flour can cause asthma. Possible trigger for coeliac disease. Possible hypersensitivity to barley [301].
Habitats Not known in the wild, it is found in Britain as a relict of cultivation but does not persist[17].
Range Of uncertain origin.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Hordeum vulgare Barley, Common barley

Hordeum vulgare Barley, Common barley


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Hordeum vulgare is a ANNUAL growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 0.2 m (0ft 8in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 4 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from June to August. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Wind.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Frumentum hordeum, Hordeum sativum, Hordeum nigrum, Hordeum durum, Secale orientale


 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Seed
Edible Uses: Coffee  Drink  Salt  Sweetener

Seed - cooked as a whole grain or ground up and used as a flour for making bread, porridges etc[2, 7, 46, 183]. It has a low gluten content and so is unsuitable for making wheat-type breads[238, K]. The seed can be fermented into sourdough and many other fermented foods such as 'tempeh' and 'miso'[183]. The seed can also be sprouted and added to salads or the sprouted seed juiced and the juice drunk as a health-food drink[183]. The decorticated seed is called pearl barley. This is no longer viable since the decortication process damages the embryo. It is used in soups, stews etc[238]. Malt is obtained by sprouting the whole seed and then roasting it. The seed is then ground into a flour and boiled in water. The resulting liquid is very sweet and can be used in making beer or other drinks, and as a nutritious sweetener in various foods.[7, 46]. The roasted (unsprouted) seed is used as a coffee[46, 183] and a salt substitute.

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Abortifacient  Cancer  Carminative  Demulcent  Digestive  Diuretic  Emollient  Expectorant  
Febrifuge  Galactofuge  Hypoglycaemic  Lenitive  Nutritive  Poultice  Stomachic

The shoots are diuretic[218]. The seed sprouts are demulcent, expectorant, galactofuge, lenitive and stomachic[176, 218]. They are sometimes abortifacient[218]. They are used in the treatment of dyspepsia caused by cereals, infantile lacto-dyspepsia, regurgitation of milk and breast distension[176]. They are best not given to a nursing mother since this can reduce milk flow[176]. The seed is digestive, emollient, nutritive, febrifuge and stomachic[218]. It is taken internally as a nutritious food or as barley water (an infusion of the germinated seed in water) and is of special use for babies and invalids[238]. Its use is said to reduce excessive lactation[238]. Barley is also used as a poultice for burns and wounds[4, 46, 176, 218]. The plant has a folk history of antitumour activity[218]. The germinating seed has a hypoglycaemic effect preceded by a hyperglycaemic action[218]. Modern research has shown that barley may be of aid in the treatment of hepatitis, whilst other trials have shown that it may help to control diabetes[254]. Barley bran may have the effect of lowering blood cholesterol levels and preventing bowel cancer[254]. Other uses for bronchitis and diarrhoea, and as a source of folic acid and vitamin B12 and B6. Weight loss[301].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Biomass  Mulch  Paper

The stems, after the seed has been harvested, have many uses. They are a source of fibres for making paper, a biomass for fuel etc, they can be shredded and used as a mulch[141, 171].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Staple Crop: Balanced carb  Under Development

Succeeds in most soils and in climates ranging from sub-arctic to sub-tropical[1, 171]. Easily grown in light soils[162]. Prefers a calcareous soil[7]. Best grown in a sunny position[238]. Barley first came under cultivation about 12,000 years ago[238]. It is widely cultivated in Temperate areas of the world for its edible seed, there are many named varieties[57, 183]. It succeeds further north than most other cereal crops (it succeeds in Norway at latitude 70° N[142]), and at higher altitudes (it is a staple crop in Tibet)[57, 238]. The Coeleste group contains the hull-less barleys. Although lower yielding than the type, these hull-less seeds are much easier to harvest making them a much easier crop to grow on a small scale[183].

Carbon Farming

  • Staple Crop: Balanced carb  (0-15 percent protein, 0-15 percent oil, with at least one over 5 percent). The carbohydrates are from either starch or sugar. Annuals include maize, wheat, rice, and potato. Perennials include chestnuts, carob, perennial fruits, nuts, cereals, pseudocereals, woody pods, and acorns.
  • Under Development  Plant breeders are actively working to domesticate these plants for cultivation, but they are not yet commercially available as crops. Examples include most of the perennial cereal grains.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Seed - sow in situ in March or October and only just cover the seed. Make sure the soil surface does not dry out if the weather is dry. Germination takes place within 2 weeks.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

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Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Readers comment

hazel   Sun Aug 1 13:41:09 2004

could you explain more about its procees of barley- flour making process?

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