Rye is a grass that’s closely related to wheat and barley. A popular story about rye is that it originally started as a weed growing in fields of wheat until someone realized that their grain was in some cases similar to that of wheat and the plant was much hardier than wheat due to its extensive root system. In olden days, rye and wheat are usually sown together to hedge against a bad wheat growing season. Today, rye is usually grown in areas where wheat and other cereals fail due to soil and weather conditions. Rye was very popular in medieval times as the main ingredient for bread as wheat was reserved for those with higher status in life due to the difficulty of growing wheat. With the advent of modern wheat strains and farming methods, rye is no longer the main component for bread applications but is still popular among gourmet bread producers for its texture and health benefits.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Order: Poales
- Family: Poaceae
- Genus: Secale
- Species: S. cereale
- Binomial name: Secale cereale
- While rye production for food has gone down, total rye production is still quite high due to the use of rye in many alcoholic beverages like whiskey, bourbon, and vodka.
- Rye is harder to refine than wheat, which leads to rye flour retaining much more minerals than wheat, making it much healthier as well.
- Rye can have psychedelic effects. Well, not exactly rye but ergot. Ergot is the most common disease that attacks rye and it has been known to cause effects the same to that of LSD, oh and it can cause death as well.
- Rye is lower in gluten than wheat, but it still isn’t a good choice for those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
Rye Buying Guide
It is really hard to find Rye in its whole form but it is quite common to find different rye flours in many specialty stores, health stores, farmers’ markets, and local gristmills. There are multiple types of rye flour and sometimes the labeling can be confusing if you do not know exactly what you are looking for. Here’s a buying guide for rye flour so the next time you’re out buying rye flour, you’ll know exactly what to get and expect from each type.
- Light Rye flour – This is sometimes known as to why rye flour or even just rye flour. This is pale and is like refined wheat flour in the sense that all of the germ and bran has been removed. This is the lightest type of rye flour and can be worked as easily as regular refined flour.
- Medium Rye flour – This type of rye flour still has a bit of the bran left in it, giving a slightly darker color and a denser finished product when used in baking applications.
- Whole rye flour – Much like other whole-grain flour, this flour contains all of the bran and the germ from the grain when milled. It is also known as dark rye flour or stone-milled rye. The inclusion of the bran and germ makes for a much denser finished product as they interfere with gluten development.
- Pumpernickel flour – This is whole rye flour that has a coarser grind. In many cases, the bran and the germ are still visible, giving it a pleasing visual aspect when baked into bread. Not only does the coarsely ground grain impart a more rustic visual aspect to the bread but an interesting texture as well.
Rye Production & Farming in Texas
Rye production in Texas over the past few years has slowly gone down. The reason for this is that rye was primarily planted in the state as forage for livestock. This has slowly been replaced by the hardier (and more productive) triticale. Of course, there are several farms in Texas that still specialize in rye planting for the production of rye flour as there is a local demand by artisan bread makers and bakeries for whole rye flour and pumpernickel.
Texas is also home many gristmills that still operate to this day, providing freshly ground flour not only from wheat, but from rye and other grains as well. You can find rye products all around the state from bakeshops, farmers’ markets, supermarkets, and even online through homesteaders that offer curbside or delivery services.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
A study shows that over 22% of all rye grain-based products have detectable residues of pesticides and chemicals. While this number is low and doesn’t pose as much risk to end users, it is worth noting that the use of these chemicals post a hazardous environment for the farmworkers and environment where the rye was grown.
This is one of the reasons why you should stick to purchasing USDA Organic certified rye products or at the very least, purchase them from local producers that adhere to sustainability practices and don’t use pesticides and chemicals.
Rye flour has been elevated to the status of a gourmet ingredient and this has led to rye flour being packed mostly in resealable kraft bags. Commercial rye flour is packed in either sacks and plastic bags for convenience.
While rye is usually ground up and turned into flour for baking use, rye grains can also be used much like wheat grains and rice. It just takes a bit more time to prepare, but it is still quite enjoyable. It can be used as the carb component in a meal, or as a textural component to stews, salads, and soups.
For whole-grain rye, it can last for years as long as it is stored in the proper conditions. Store the rye grain in an airtight container, away from heat and light and your rye grain can last for years.
As for rye flour, keep it in an airtight container and in the fridge or freezer and it should stay good for up to a year.
How to prepare Rye Grain:
Preparing rye grain is extremely easy. All you need are rye grains and water/broth/stock. This is great as a carb component to any meal or it can be added to salads or soups for extra texture.
Rye Grain (berries), 1 cup
Wash rye berries to remove excess starch.
Bring the water or stock to boil, add the rye berries and lower to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for an hour.
Drain and use immediately.
Optional: Cool on a baking sheet and add to salads.