Barley Malt as a Galactagogue, from Stone Age Times to the Present Day
The subject of this post is barley malt — an ancient galactagogue. Before there was bread or beer, there was barley, a hardy, nutritious grain that grew in all kinds of difficult terrains. The discovery of barley as a food source was huge for the advancement of humanity. In fact, it is thought to have been discovered and cultivated as our very earliest grain, grown even before wheat.
Because grain such as barley and wheat could be dried and stored, it provided protection from hunger and starvation. This enabled humans to settle down and get on with things, building communities, domesticating animals, and generally laying the groundwork for civilization.
The cultivation of barley–planting in fields and harvesting for the winter–began over ten thousands years ago in isolated settlements. Eventually, its cultivation would spread across Europe and Asia.
Barley, when it is sprouted and dries, develops enzymes that break down the carbohydrates in the grain. This dried grain is called “the malt,” and its enzymes continue working in the fermentation of beer.
Barley therefore became the primary grain used in the production of malt, beer and bread. These three forms of “food production” would be advanced and specialized, and this spurred the development of technology.
We take fermentation for granted. Fermentation allows us to enjoy bread, beer, yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut, pickles and wine. We don’t think twice about fermentation as we buy our food from the store. But think what fermentation must have looked like to primitive people, to see beverages ferment into inebriating brews, to see flour puff up into bread, and to see the sprouted, dried and enzymatically digested barley grain turn into yummy malt sugar.
It must have looked like the invisible world of the gods was interacting with the human world of food.
Malt as a Galactagogue – Some Insights
The word malt triggers memories of Ovomaltine, Malt-O-Meal, malted milk and shakes. These icons of childhood are beloved due to their taste which is warm, nuanced, sweet and bitter. Malt’s flavor speaks to its range of sugars, with their array of subtle taste differences, in combination with the satisfying bitterness of malt’s high mineral content.