Bere Island is South of Ireland and prior to the 20th century, this barley was widely grown in this area. Characteristics which suit it to this area include a rapid growth rate and a reputed tolerance to acidic soils.
In most areas, however, Bere was progressively replaced by higher yielding modern varieties and by the 1990s only about 10 ha were still in cultivation – mostly in Orkney, Sutherland and Shetland. Survival in Orkney has been linked closely to a local Mill, which still produces Bere flour, which is mainly used locally in a range of food products (bannocks, bread and biscuits).
Analyses of Bere flour has shown it to be a source of magnesium, zinc and iodine and to contain significant amounts of folate, thiamine and pantothenic acid. It is therefore thought to have potential as a functional food (Theobald et al., 2006) and the Agronomy Institute is investigating new bakery markets for Bere flour.
Historical accounts show that Bere was previously used widely for producing malt which would have been used for making both beer and whiskey. Information & Photo Source: Agronomy Institute, Orkney College