TWO-ROW HULLESS BARLEY “LEONESSA”
Hulless or “naked” barley (Hordeum vulgare) is a form of domesticated barley with an easier-to-remove hull.
The early-ripening variety called “Leonessa” is organically cultivated at the Self-Sufficiency Farm. This type of barley was selected from a local population by geneticist Nazzareno Strampelli in 1936, then it has been revived by CERMIS (Center of research for the improvement of vegetable species) that dealt with the protection of Leonessa in the first years of the 80s.
Unlike hulled barley, naked barley does not need a pearling process because the hull is so loose that it usually falls off during harvesting. For this reason naked barley might be easily mistaken for wheat, as it happened in the Farm when Jerry was certain to have sowed wheat instead of barley.
This characteristic makes naked barley particularly adapt for food consumption in different forms and for this reason it has been the most used variety of barley for direct consumption of grains and flour.
As many other minor traditional cultivations, also naked barley has constantly declined in popularity in favour of hulled barley for livestock purposes.
Historically, naked barley has been used for flour production and the preparation of soups, decoctions and other products.
For thousands of years the most famous Greek food used to be a sort of cornmeal mush made of barley and its use was recommended by Hippocrates to improve mental focus, peace of mind and physical activity.
In Italy the cultivation of naked barley dates back to the first half of the XIX century, when it would be used for making a coffee surrogate.
Until the 1950s naked barley used to be cultivated also nearby the Farm and most of it would be roasted with a rudimentary equipment in order to produce barley coffee. With the passing of time. this tradition has been abandoned due to the discovery of more productive and profitable cultivations, the change of our dietary habits (increase of proper coffee consumption) and the difficult management of small cultivations and limited productions.
Nowadays we are more aware of side effects linked to excessive coffee consumption, so barley coffee is gaining back its popularity. Moreover, barley has been consumed always more frequently in soups, salads and in the production of bread, biscuits and pasta.