The Book of Barley

In 1981, while Ecology Action was preparing to relocate its GROW BIOINTENSIVE farming program to from Palo Alto to Willits, CA in 1982, I received a letter from Lorenz Schaller, an amazing grainsman, noting that the Kusa Seed Society—”a voice for the precious edible seeds of the earth”—was seeking a location where they could grow out their grain seed. If we had been staying in Palo Alto, it would have been wonderful to collaborate, but since we were moving, our paths diverged. Instead, Lorenz (or “Lenz” as I came to know him) began a periodic correspondence when Ecology Action needed information about a specific variety of grain. Lenz would respond, typically in four single-spaced pages, apologizing for the brevity of his answer. You can see by his Book of Barley (—many years in the making, in three volumes totaling 1,613 pages—that he was accurate about the wide scope and comprehensive nature of his knowledge of grains. What is astounding is the fact that he is almost entirely self-taught!

Over the last almost four decades, Lenz and I have become good friends, and I can say without reservation that his knowledge and skill have increased proportionally with his age. His interests extend beyond grains, as well: of particular interest to me is his macrobiotic diet, which is based on 60/30/10 proportions, similar to the 60/30/10 GROW BIOINTENSIVE crop ratios which ensure the sustainable production of complete balanced diets, sufficient compost materials from these carefully-chosen diet crops, plus vegetables, soft fruits and seeds for to balance out vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids and income – food for one’s wallet. (Incidentally, while traveling in Austria several years ago, I was told by a fellow traveler of a nearby valley on the way to Italy. It seems that this valley, which had been developed by the Romans many years previously, grew wheat, potatoes and vegetables using similar 60/30/10 proportions. Interesting!)

Anyway, back to Lenz’ new book!


Volumes 1 and 2, Tibetan Barley Tsampa—The Story of An Ancient Food are described as follows: “Here in this book, sparking and scintillating, the buried treasures of a precious human ‘lost art’ are unearthed and brought to light… Assembled and displayed in one place for the first time ever, here in The Book of Barley … is the remarkable story of this ‘founder crop’ of agriculture, one of the world “pillars of civilization’. From its early beginnings as a sacred grain on the first mini-farms at the dawn of agriculture to its deserved place on the supper table of the health-conscious modern home, the world history of this important foodgrain is herein explored from East to West…

Saints and mystics have used this cereal for a staple, surviving on it and little else, sinners too. The crop’s boundaries are few, as world advances many. Despite the very positive modern nutritional value and culinary utility of foodgrain barley, its remarkable life story has never been gathered together, assembled and told in one place—until now.

Foodgrain barley is at the heart of the blending together of the East and the West—a marriage across time of the mystery cult of Eleusis in ancient Greece, the later cult of the goddess Ceres of Roman Italy, through to today’s XVI Dalai Lama, the 3  scion of barley mini-farmers who lived in a remote high-altitude valley in The Land of Snows.

A nutrition-substance landmark, this comprehensive and monumental work is the result of the author’s 50 years of modern-era research, study, experimentation and direct experience, involving this ancient human foodgrain.”

Chapters include:

  • What is a Tsampa
  • Porridge
  • Malting Barley
  • More Ancient than History
  • Egypt—“I am Barley”
  • The Origins of Tibetans and Their Barley
  • Ancient Barley Cultures in Turkey
  • Ancient Barley Cultures in Ireland
  • Food Barley and Ancient Greece
  • Barley’s Nutrition
  • The Green Juice of Barley Leaves
  • Barley— A Rich Source of Natural Antioxidants
  • Barley’s Medicinal Properties
  • Barley Bread
  • Seeds – Marvels of Microprocessing Genius

Volume 3, The Book of Barley—Foodgrain Barley: Small-Scale Production is “…a comprehensive technical manual for growing food-barley, a nutritious human foodgrain. Beginning with a detailed botanic and agronomic portrait of the food-barley crop plant, the book proceeds with detailed presentations of ‘how to” techniques for successfully growing and harvesting food grain barley in grain-gardens and on mini-farms.

Written in understandable language for laypeople, this book is a “grower’s handbook” for successfully producing this nutritious cereal crop using organic ecological methods – completely avoiding the use of any synthetic, toxic, agricultural chemical fertilizers, seed treatments, or biocides.

Valuable tips and details covering techniques and tools for planting, weeding, irrigating, harvesting, and producing the crop for home food utilization are provided. This book emphasizes small-scale, “hands-on” appropriate technology throughout. Information in this book is based on practical methods researched and tested during the author’s more than thirty-five years of experience in small-scale field production of the crop for home food use.”

Topics include:

  • Feed vs Food
  • Food Barley as a Spiritual Teacher
  • Food Barley — The World’s Missing Grain
  • Growth Stages of Barley
  • Basic Barley Agronomy
  • Threats Specific to Winter Growth-Habit Barley
  • Protecting Stored Barley Grain
  • Quick and Easy Guide to Growing Food-Barley
  • Advanced Barley Growing
  • Raising Excellent Seedlings for Transplant

Happily, a fourth volume is planned as a culinary and recipe guide.

For anyone interested in nutrition, farming, soil, and the history of one of the most important grain crops known to humans, I highly recommend checking out Lenz Schaller’s tour-de-force exploration of barley. Don’t wait! Begin this exciting ages-old and new as today nutrition-and soil-growing adventure, now!

To order, see Amazon.

For the Kusa Seed Catalog, see

One Comment on “The Book of Barley

  1. Hello

    Does John Jeavons ever take emails or Zoom calls etc?

    I have a significant realisation about how to “dance together”, as he put it when he said –

    “…now the challenges are so large,
    it’s gonna take almost everybody in the whole world, to make the difference, and it will be more fun to dance together”
    John Jeavons

    I’m currently teaching the bio intensive method at a community house as part of the adult education service. I’ve noticed inadvertently that I’ve found a DESIGN that I believe is SUSTAINABLE, by nurturing neighbourhood involvement in a mixed use facility, that harnesses / engages the labour of the neighbour.

    Its an evolving shape, a prototype, and I want to develop it more by drawing from expertise such as John’s . For I propose a new neighbourhood facility, that is designed in such a way, that it puts the bio intensive method in the hands of the people, on the ground where they live, in a fun, inclusive.


    Urban Gardener
    (past apprentice of Koanga institute)

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