Hordeum vulgare

Hebrew name   שעורה תרבותית
Family Poaceae
Petals No petals
Leaf form Linear
Leaf margin Entire
צורת הגבעול Round
Life form Annual
Distribution in Israel Golan, Hermon, Gallilee, Mediterranean coast, Upper Jordan valley, Northern valleys, Gilboa, Carmel, Samarian mountains, Samarian desert, Judean mountains, Judean desert and Dead Sea valley, Ein Gedi, Sharon, Shefela, Northern Negev, Negev hills and Eilat, Aravah, Jordan Valley,
Flowering months
Herbal Medicinal


© Photo: Ori Fragman-Sapir  
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Additional information

Common barley is an annual, monocotyledonous plant, which belongs to the Poaceae family. The leaves are linear and long. The spikes are carried on erect and tall culms. The spikes are longer than those of wheat. The Hebrew name is related to the awns of the spike, which are long and pilose. Common barley originates from the wild species - Hordeum spontaneum (spontaneous barley). The difference between them is in the shattering of the spikes. The spikes of spontaneous barley shatter upon ripening. Those of common barley do not shatter, and can therefore be reaped and gathered with ease.
Barley is considered the most ancient crop in this region of the Mediterranean. Its origin is most probably from East Turkey. Barley spikes and their grains were found in the pyramids of Egypt and at Masada. Barley was common in this region even more than 5000 years ago.
Barley ripens before wheat, in April (Passover), and needs less water than wheat. The leaves of barley are broader than those of wheat, and its grains are arranged in rows. Wheat and barley differ from each other in the shape of the seed and the spike. Spikelets are arranged in triplets which alternate along the rachis. In wild barley only the central spikelet is fertile, while the other two are reduced. This condition is retained in certain cultivars known as two-row barleys. In other cultivars the lateral spikelets are also fertile. This produces six-row barleys.
Its soil requirements are fewer than those of wheat, and today it is grown mainly as animal fodder. In antiquity, barley bread was regarded as poor people’s bread. Today barley bread is in demand by fans of organic food, and it is relatively expensive compared to other types of bread.
Barley flour is rich in many minerals, including vitamins B1, B6.Two-row barley has a lower protein content than six-row barley and thus more fermentable sugar content. High protein barley is best suited for animal feed. On the other hand, malting barley is usually lower protein. Barley grains serve as raw material in the manufacture of alcoholic drinks, whiskey and beer. They are also eaten as “pearl barley”.

Written by Udi Michalis


“… Before Noah was born, they would not reap when they sowed, but rather sowed wheat and barley, and reaped thorns and thistles… when Noah was born, the world returned to normal, they reaped what they sowed, sowed wheat and reaped wheat, sowed barley and reaped barley. Noah was born, he made them ploughs, scythes and axes, and all tools…” (Midrash Tanhuma – Genesis). Barley is the second among the seven kinds with which the Land of Israel was blessed. Professor Yehuda Felix claims that there is a hierarchy of three groups in the seven kinds, and that their inner order determines their importance: wheat and barley – types of cereals, grape, fig and pomegranate – fruits, oil and honey – the product of the olive and the date. Wheat and barley are usually mentioned together because they comprised the “firstfruits of the crops”. Barley is mentioned 32 times in the Bible. Barley was grown extensively during the biblical period, barley bread was an important food, even though barley was sometimes mentioned as fodder for animals, or as an inferior offering.
In the Temple, a sheaf was waved, which was of barley, between Passover and Shavuot (for seven weeks), because it was the first of the winter crops to ripen. During the times of the Mishna and the Talmud, barley bread was considered poor people’s bread.
Written by Udi Michalis

“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Yet when this little treasure was given to Jesus, it fed 5,000 people or more! What could God do with your little gifts? - John 6:9.