Seeds of Scotland

Barley - Bere


Conservation variety  Hordeum vulgare - approximately 20 grams.


Bere is the name for the traditional Scottish barley. It is the oldest of the local cereal varieties.  Many archeological sites from the Early Iron Age had this barley. Bere, Hordeum vulgare, is a six-row barley – in contrast to the more common two-row barley.

It was once the main staple in the form of the traditional barley flatbread, used for beverages such as beer and whisky, and for animal feed.

This rich history is testified in Gaelic songs such as Tir a'mhurain,  tir an èorna, tir 's am pailt a h'uile a suirce sèorsa   (Land of bent grass, land of barley, land of plenty.)

All of its uses have survived or are being re-introduced,  on the Outer Hebrides and Orkney.  Several whiskies using bere are at present on the market or in development. 

Bere is a short-season 'ninety-day' crop of low-input agriculture.  It can yield under challenging conditions such as manganese-deficient soils but will lodge with high nitrogen. By growing Bere you are contributing to the maintenance of this conservation variety.  Description written by Maria Scholten, Landrace Cereal Researcher.

Further reading:

  • Dan Saladino's 2021 book Eating to Extinction. The World's Rarest Foods and Why We Need to Save Them. Chapter 6, Bere Barley
  • Recent research on bere at the Agronomy Institute on Orkney:


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