Friday, May 18, 2012

Is that grass edible?

Real barley

Hare Barley also known as Foxtails

Real Barley

Barley has been grown for human and animal consumption of thousands of years.  The recorded history of human domestication of barley, wheat, oats, and rye can be documented as far back as the Egyptians and the Mesopotamia.
For the small homesteader growing ones own grains can be a perfect and wonderful addition to ones sustainable lifestyle. But, be warn not all "grasses" are beneficial and some are even deadly.

In California there is an evasive species of grain that was arrived with the Spaniards and Father Sierra from Spain. It is often called hare barley or in our home it's called foxtails. I remember as a kid watching my Mom and Grandfather sadly take care of dogs and kitties who had these foxtails impaled into their ears, nose and paws of their feet. We had one German Shepard whose ear was permanently damaged because one of these foxtail burs embedded itself into her ear. The resulting infection damaged the ear. Poor Freyja's ear never stood up after the damage. It added to her goofy personality but my Grandfather would go after fields of foxtails with a vengeance.

The deadly barb of the Foxtail that harms animals.

There is a difference between barley and hare barley. Barley is grown for human and animal consumption. The barley seeds are large enough to harvest and ground into the flours used in cooking. The the young shoots of the hare barley can be eaten by foraging animals.  Once the "flowers" are out on the plant that is when the hare barely becomes dangerous to animals and humans. There is no nutritional value to hare barley for either humans or animals. For more additional information check out the University of California, Davis Ag extension here.

Since hare barley is not native to California it is not drought resistant. Once the hare barley becomes dry it becomes a huge fire hazard since it burns hot and fast. Homeowners are need to keep this evasive grass cut or eliminated to prevent fires from traveling close to dwellings.

Torpedoes of death masquerade as innocent grass! Exactly! the barb is like a tiny torpedo that burrows into the skin of a pet. If not caught early the barbs create nasty infections, abscess and in poor Freyja's case, permanent damage.
It is recommnded by Carla Jackson of Jackson Ranch for Dogs to do the following
Beware! If you have foxtail weeds on your property, eradicate them BEFORE they dry and start doing their deadly damage. Even if they don't attach to your pet, they will at the very least, reseed themselves and come back even stronger next year.
It's possible to make it through summer and fall without an expensive foxtail incident, but it requires diligence on the part of pet owners.
When it comes to fighting Hare Barley Hordeum murinum, it's not a battle - it's war!
  • Own a long-haired dog? Consider having him/her shaved during foxtail season
  • Inspect pets carefully each day, especially after outings near dry weeds. Brush thoroughly, check ears, in between toes.
  • Eradicate foxtail weeds from your yard. Pull them out by the roots. If you use an herbicide, spray in early spring before they develop.
  • If you mow foxtails, bag and THROW THE CLIPPINGS AWAY!
 Check out Carla Jackson's article here

As a biodynamic gardener my goal is to grow our own food for our animals. But, beware that not all grasses are beneficial to our animals.

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