Barley – International Rare and Endangered Hulless Barley Collection


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This is a hulless barley collection that we began collecting, saving and growing out 25 years ago, here at Koanga, beginning in our Kaiwaka gardens and now in Wairoa.

Kay was originally inspired by the KUSA organization in the USA, a very special organisation, you can check out on the internet.

Many years ago Kay imported what she could from KUSA and those cultivars formed the beginning of our now wider collection. It now includes cultivars from Japan, India, Germany and Ethiopia.

Apart from our wonderful corn collection the hulless barley cultivars have proven to be our most special find in terms of which grains are delicious to eat, easy to grow and also easy to get from growing to the table. The stories of some of these seeds are unbelievable as well.

This is a basic introduction to the history of barley (extracted from some of the amazing writing done by Lorenz Shaller of KUSA).

‘Barley was one of the first domesticated grains in the Fertile Crescent, an area of relatively abundant water in western Asia, and near the Nile river of northeast Africa. The grain appeared in the same time as Einkorn and Emmer wheat. Wild barley (H. vulgare ssp. spontaneum) ranges from North Africa and Crete in the west, to Tibet in the east. The earliest evidence of wild barley in an archaeological context comes from the Epipaleolithic at Ohalo II at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. The remains were dated to about 8500 BCE. The earliest domesticated barley occurs at aceramic (“pre-pottery”) Neolithic sites, in the Near East such as the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B layers of Tell Abu Hureyra, in Syria. By 4200 BCE domesticated barley occurs as far as in Eastern Finland  Barley has been grown in the Korean Peninsula since the Early Mumun Pottery Period (circa 1500–850 BCE) along with other crops such as millet, wheat, and legumes.

Barley (known as Yava in both Vedic and Classical Sanskrit) is mentioned many times in Rigveda and other Indian scriptures as one of the principal grain in ancient India. Traces of Barley cultivation have also been found in post-Neolithic Bronze Age Harappan civilization 5700–3300 years before present.

In the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond proposed that the availability of barley, along with other domesticable crops and animals, in southwestern Eurasia significantly contributed to the broad historical patterns that human history has followed over approximately the last 13,000 years; i.e., why Eurasian civilizations, as a whole, have survived and conquered others.

Barley beer was probably one of the first alcoholic drinks developed by Neolithic humans. Barley later on was used as currency. Alongside Emmer wheat, barley was a staple cereal of ancient Egypt, where it was used to make bread and beer. The general name for barley is jt (hypothetically pronounced “eat”); šma (hypothetically pronounced “SHE-ma”) refers to Upper Egyptian barley and is a symbol of Upper Egypt. The Sumerian term is akiti. According to Deuteronomy 8:8, barley is one of the “Seven Species” of crops that characterize the fertility of the Promised Land of Canaan, and it has a prominent role in the Israelite sacrifices described in the Pentateuch (see e.g. Numbers 5:15). A religious importance extended into the Middle Ages in Europe, and saw barley’s use in justice, via alphitomancy and the corsned.

Rations of barley for workers appear in Linear B tablets in Mycenaean contexts at Knossos and at Micenaean Pylos. In mainland Greece, the ritual significance of barley possibly dates back to the earliest stages of the Eleusinian Mysteries. The preparatory kykeon or mixed drink of the initiates, prepared from barley and herbs, referred in the Homeric hymn to Demeter, whose name some scholars believe meant “Barley-mother”. The practice was to dry the barley groats and roast them before preparing the porridge, according to Pliny the Elder’s Natural History (xviii.72). This produces malt that soon ferments and becomes slightly alcoholic.

Pliny also noted barley was a special food of gladiators known as hordearii, “barley-eaters”. However, by Roman times, he added that wheat had replaced barley as a staple.

Tibetan barley has been a staple food in Tibetan cuisine since the fifth century CE. This grain, along with a cool climate that permitted storage, produced a civilization that was able to raise great armies. It is made into a flour product called tsampa that is still a staple in Tibet. The flour is roasted and mixed with butter and butter tea to form a stiff dough that is eaten in small balls.

In medieval Europe, bread made from barley and rye was peasant food, while wheat products were consumed by the upper classes. Potatoes largely replaced barley in Eastern Europe in the 19th century.’

 In this offer we include six different hulless barley cultivars. We have several others that we hope we will be able to make available for you to access in the future.

Our membership donations enable us to do this work, if you value us maintaining these ancient genetic lines please consider becoming a member or even a member who donates to assist others to become members widening the education and support we have. Please check out the membership page on our website to see the levels of support we need in order to be able to save all of our NZ seeds. You can see there, which seeds will be saved with one garden and one gardener on up.

No 1, 4, and 5, are all Spring plant cultivars that are a part of the following Indian Miracle Seed Collection from India but due to a lack of resources here one year we lost the names of them, so we don’t know which they are out the 5 possibilities. We do know these three are three of the five described below, from the original KUSA descriptions and booklet.

 ‘The “Miracle Seeds” Barley Offer consists of five (5) packets of naked-barley (Hordeum vulgare var. nudum).Each of the five individual cultivars is of outstanding agronomic and culinary quality. All of the cultivars are spring growth-habit. These are food-quality barleys with fast maturity and high yield potential (5,000lbs/ac). The grain can be eaten whole like rice, put whole into soups, milled into flour for bread, noodles, sauces, porridges and dessert preparations.

One-third of the world’s 850-million hungry people are located in India. These “Miracle Seeded” food-barleys were created by an Indian agricultural genius 25 years ago (using “old school,” low-tech, classical plant-breeding methods of hand-crossing and selection), and were intentionally designed (“from the ground up”) to add millions of tons of grain to the national pool annually to ameliorate India’s hunger problem.

The plants are small and miniaturized, lodging-proof (they have double the stem-strength of “green-revolution” wheats), and are richer in protein than the best, top-of-the-line, green-revolution bread wheat. The plants are superbly suited to mini-farming under natural conditions, as they possess high input conversion efficiency, including a more-efficient tapping of solar-energy and other enhanced plant-function factors. The plants’ nitrogen-conversion efficiency is higher than that of India’s commercial “green-revolution” wheats.

The project that produced these special and rare food barley cultivars originated at the top-levels of the national government of India. But when the project resulted in a “landmark invention” (the high-quality barleys featured in this Offer) things began to go very, very wrong. The highly successful project was abruptly stopped in mid-stride. The genetic genius in charge of the project, the man who created the barleys with the dream of eradicating both India’s and the world’s hunger, was “scientifically assassinated” (his career up-ended).

All of the scientifically nurtured barley genetic stocks (thousands of advanced lines of food-barley) were intentionally destroyed in an act of malice by forces deadset on suppressing the invention. Only these five cultivars listed in this Offer survived (sent to the Kusa Seed organization in a diplomatic bag before the assassination). This “seed story of the century” with its tragic ending is told in complete detail in the paper India’s Miracle Seeds (see the Literature section of this Catalog for ordering information). India’s Miracle Seeds, a true story, is recommended reading. Each of the below five cultivars were exposed in the field in Ojai, California, to multiple nights of 16° F. temperatures at 30 days of age without harm. All varieties have lustrous grain, amber-wheatish in color. The limited circulation of some of these seeds in the mini-farming community of the United States during the past ten years has set-off a cult-like buzz about these phenomenal plants.

Also in this Collection we have the following hulless or naked barley cultivars:

Sumire Mochi – Sumire Mochi is a Spring growth habit, naked food barley from Japan with purplish coloured grain and dynamic, vigorous tillering. Glutinous trait food barleys are very very rare and this is one of them. Its kernels contain the highly nutritious, efficiently assimilative amylopectin starch. A very rare grain with outstanding agronomic performance and potential plus invaluable human nutrition properties.

Milmore Hulless – Spring  Growth Habit cultivar. Originally called Larina, bred in Germany by Karl-Josef Mueller, it is a light skinned, true free threshing cultivar which is what makes it so valuable for home growers.  Selected on Milmore Downs in NZ for more than 25 years, Demeter and BioGro certified. We are very lucky to have this cultivar in this land.

Black Barley – Another Spring growth habit barley that is naked, so can be easily grown and used in the kitchen. Reputed to be one of the original cultivars from the Fertile Crescent, we found it in NZ a while ago but but unavailable to the pubic over the past years. It is a stunner in terms of looks and taste.


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