Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.)

belongs to the grass family (Gramineae). Barley ranks fourth after maize, rice and wheat in terms of global production. It is cultivated mainly in the northern hemisphere.

The chemical composition of barley grains depends on genetic factors (variety) and cultivation sites (soil and climate conditions, farming technique applied). The barley grain contains carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins.

Carbohydrates constitute 72–78% of the barley grain. They are an accessible and easily accessed source of energy for the organism. Their breakdown provides 82% of the energy total. Similarly to other cereals, the barley grain contains mainly complex carbohydrates, above all starch.

The barley grain also includes compounds that cannot be absorbed by the organism,. This group of compounds, called fibre, comprises: water-soluble β-glucans and pentosans (6.5%) and water-insoluble fractions – cellulose, lignin and hemicellulose.

The protein content in the husked barley grain is 10.8–11.5 %. The barley grain contains little fat (1.8–2.2% in the husked grain). Similarly to grains of other cereals, barley fat contains predominantly linoleic acid, which belongs to the group of essential unsaturated fatty acids (n-6), as well as oleic and palmitic acids. These three acids constitute approx. 75% of all fatty acids.

The mineral content in the husked barley grain is 2.1–2.4%. Most minerals are located in the pericarp and aleuronic layer. The barley grain contains large quantities of phosphorus (3.6 g/kg) and calcium (0.5 g/kg). Of the microelements, the barley grain contains iron (66 mg/kg), zinc (21 mg/kg) and copper (3.8 mg/kg).

Similarly to other cereals, the barley grain is a good source of B vitamins. It contains 0.43 mg of thiamine (vitamin B1) / 100 g, 0.18 mg of riboflavin (vitamin B2) / 100 g, 4.80 mg of niacin (vitamin PP) / 100 g, 0.56 mg of pyridoxine (vitamin B6) / 100 g, and 65 μg of folic acid / 100g. Of fat-soluble vitamins, the wheat grain contains vitamin E in the amount of 5 mg/kg after conversion to α-tocopherol.

Roasted barley is commonly used in baked and confectionery products, pastries and ice cream. It is a basic ingredient of cereal grain beverages – naturally caffeine-free drinks and coffee alternatives .

Barley products are worth consuming as they contain:

  • carbohydrates: starch, which is a source of energy, and fiber, which is indispensable for the proper functioning of the gastrointestinal tract,
  • proteins, the body’s building component,
  • B vitamins indispensable for the proper functioning of the nervous system,
  • vitamin E, due to its antioxidant action,
  • minerals necessary to ensure proper biochemical processes in the body.

Cultivation of cereals

Barley and its varieties belong to the oldest cereals and are most frequently used in the food industry. There are over a dozen species of barley, and they are cultivated mainly in countries with a temperate and warm climate, in almost all corners of the world. Barley is used to produce, for example, groats and soluble cereal-based beverages consumed as alternatives to tea and coffee. Barley (Hordeum vulgare) is the raw material used in the manufacture of barley malt which is used, for example, in the brewing industry.

The beginning and duration of harvest depend on weather and climatic conditions, region of the country and variety. Usually, when the weather is fine, harvest takes from a few days to up to two weeks. Winter barley is reaped the earliest, during the first ten days of July. Other varieties are reaped towards the end of July or in August. Combine harvesters in which grains are threshed from cereal ears are used during harvest. They are then sent to the collection points or are stored at the farm. Grains brought to the collection point are initially cleansed to remove dust and all impurities. Before being stored in a warehouse, all cereals are also tested for humidity parameters, pollution and smells.