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The origins of barley

and the Himalaya Barley Grain

Origins of BARLEYmax®

1. The Holy Grain

Barley is the oldest grain that people have been known to cultivate, and was used by our ancestors as a staple food. It is even older than the ancient wheat varieties, Emmer and Einkorn. Pre-Christian cultures appreciated barley as the ‘Holy Grain’.

In ancient Greek, Demeter, the goddess of fertility was also called “Barley Mother”.

2. Food for Gladiators

It was also used as a staple in the diet of the legendary gladiators of ancient Rome to being referenced in the bible: ‘It was with five barley loaves and two fishes that our Lord fed the five thousand’ (John 6:9-10).
In more recent times, a Russian scientist wrote 100 years ago that a wide diversity of hulless barley occurred in south-eastern Asia, China, Japan, Tibet and probably Nepal.

3. Tsampa

Today barley remains important in the diet of modern day Tibetans, their basic food called Tsampa is made out of roasted and crushed barley and mixed with Yak milk.

It is likely that a barley line from Tibet, called Himalaya, was the source of the original breeding material for BARLEYmax®

4. The United States

The background of the Himalaya barley grain remains elusive. It was collected early on, almost certainly from the Himalayas and taken to the USA where it appears in 20th Century literature.

Microscope illustration

5. Australian Research

Himalaya made its way to Australia after CSIRO’s Dr Peter Chandler obtained the variety from Washington State University believing its ‘nakedness and tallness’ would be ideal for his research.

Peter subsequently bred, along traditional lines, a variety named Himalaya 292. The health-promoting properties of this grain were recognised and defined by CSIRO colleague, Dr Zhongyi Li.

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