hist-brewing: paleobrew/germination

Steve Thomas fabricus at hvi.net
Thu Feb 18 17:11:34 PST 2010

   Unmentioned as yet in this paleobrewing thread is the effect of seed 
dormancy on sprouting/malting.
   Seeds collected from the wild typically have a substantial period of 
dormancy which must pass before they will grow.  Dormancy keeps the 
seeds from sprouting before they are likely to have arrived at an 
environment likely to support the next generation of plants.
   In the domestication of plant species, few traits are selected for as 
vigorously as seed impatience.  When people plant, they damn well want 
the plants to grow on the human schedule, not wait an extra year if the 
season looks bad.  Crop seeds that wait too long are apt to be trampled, 
crowded out, or hoed out, and contribute no seed to later crops.  
Consequently, wild grains, even if they look like their domesticated 
brethren, will act in ways we might not expect.
   Modern barley has a dormancy period of something like three weeks, 
just enough to keep it from bolting in the ear if rain besets the 
harvest.  Wild barley likely has a substantially longer dormancy, 
probably on the order of months.  So malting and brewing is necessarily 
a product of grain harvested and stored for future use.
   Gruel can be prepared at harvest.  Brewing can't be attained without 
grain stored against the future--an index of the first softening brushes 
of civilization.
--Steve Thomas

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