The cultivation of barley began during the Neolithic Age in the Near East. The most ancient evidences date back to 10,000 BC. In 5,000 BC it had already spread in Central Europe. The ancient practice to administer it to the sick persons for its easy digestibility is also documented by archaeological finds discovered around the ancient Fucino Lake. The use of barley flour to prepare a particular kind of gnocchi in the area of L'Aquila (known as sorgetti) is documented for the 19th century. Barley flour was also used to make bread. Currently, it is used to prepare soups, although its cultivation is more linked to livestock feeding.
The name of this ancient variety derives from the fact that it ripens in May.
Current Production Area in the Park: In many areas of the Park territory, also at high altitudes.
With respect to the other autumn-winter cereals like wheat, barley resists to drought and can stand temperatures of 38°C if humidity is not too high. In winter, with a blanket of snow protecting it from noxious thermal stress, it can also stand temperatures of -20°C.
Barley distinguishes itself from other cereals for its considerable content in fibers, above all soluble fibers. Together with oat, it is the cereal with the lowest glycemic index. During cooking, it increases in volume a lot: this feature, together with the considerable content in fibers, gives the opportunity to prepare satisfying soups with a low caloric content. Two kinds of barley are mainly sold:
- Hulled barley - requiring a long cooking time and previous soaking; it contains more fibers, mineral salts, vitamins, and less calories.
- Pearl barley - it undergoes a refining process (similar to rice whitening) to remove the outer part. It can be used without previous soaking, and the cooking time is shorter.
Product Availability: It is mainly sown in autumn and harvested immediately before the early summer, and is for sale all year round.