One of the oldest crops to be domesticated, Yava in Sanskrit, Jau in Hindi, Barley is the only grain mentioned in the Rig Vedas.
Some Vedic texts mention Barley among the main food crops at the time; in fact, at the beginning of the list, along with Rice. Barley & Rice were considered favourable for bhog, i.e, food prepared for Gods, as also for human consumption.
In my travel across the Himalayan regions earlier this year for HimalayasTheOffbeatAdventure, my love for this hardy crop grew even more.
Other staples viz, native wheat cultivars, are difficult to acclimatise to these regions, hence Barley becomes extremely significant.
Barley's roots can be traced to an area geographically known as the Fertile Crescent. Some of the earliest evidence of this grain goes as far back as 8500 BCE. The grains then traveled from Central Asia to India, Persia & upto Egypt.
In ancient civilisations, Barley was a staple in many regions, close behind Rice & Wheat. In its wild form, the 2-rowed Barley was more common.
It was only around 6000 BC that the 6-rowed Barley made an appearance.
What's even more amazing is, that the crop cultivated approx 6000 years ago was far advanced than the wild barley, based on studies in the Nature Genetics journal.
And it becomes a part of our food chain in myriad ways - via animal fodder, as a base ingredient for alcoholic beverages & in its actual or processed form in dishes.
As a food, Barley is no less a wonder. Sushruta prescribed it for loss of appetite & thirst. Till date, it's used as a quick digestive home remedy for babies.
In most Indian regions, Barley or Jau seeds are sown at the beginning of Navratri, as the grain is considered one of the forerunners of plant life on this earth.
Sattu made of Barley is a preferred ingredient during Navratra as well. It's rich in minerals, fibre & low in sodium. It's one of the must have items on my travel checklist.
Much of the Barley legend may have been lost in fermentation and fodder, but the grain lives on..