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It serves as a major animal fodder, as a base malt for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods. It is used in soups and stews, and in barley bread of various cultures. Like wheat and rye, barley contains gluten. Barley is a member of the grass family. It is a self-pollinating, diploid species with 14 chromosomes.
The wild ancestor of domesticated barley, Hordeum vulgare subsp. spontaneum, is abundant in grasslands and woodlands throughout the Fertile Crescent and is abundant in disturbed habitats, roadsides and orchards. Outside this region, the wild barley is less common and is usually found in disturbed habitats.
There are many cereal fields in Belgium. A very pretty sight at the beginning of the summer.