Rye, a cereal grain, secale cereale, much cultivated in temperate climates. The genus secale belongs to the subtribe of grasses with wheat and barley (hordeineoe) in which the inflorescence is in a dense spike, the spikelets being sessile at the joints of a zigzag rachis; the chief botanical difference between rye and wheat is that in the former the spikelets are only two-flowered, with the abortive rudiment of a third flower, while in wheat the spikelets have three to several perfect flowers; the lower palets of the flowers of rye are long-awned, and the grain is brown. As with other cultivated grain, the origin of rye is uncertain; De Candolle thinks the evidence points to the country between the Alps and the Black sea as its native region. It appears to have varied less under cultivation than any other grain, there being only two recognized varieties, the winter and spring, produced as with wheat by the manner of cultivating; it succeeds upon a much poorer soil than wheat, and is well suited to those light sandy soils which will profitably produce neither wheat nor barley.
The cultivation of rye does not differ from that of wheat; it is sown in September, at the rate of one to two bushels to the acre; it is sometimes sown among Indian corn, the seed being covered with a cultivator or hoe, leaving the surface as level as possible; the corn is cut as soon as ready and removed to one side of the field, and the rye thoroughly rolled. The straw of rye is often of more value than the grain, and hence great care is taken of it in harvesting; it is frequently cut with the cradle, and in order to keep the straw unbroken thrashed with a flail; the straw is in demand for bedding, bringing a good price in cities; it is used for making straw mats for covering hotbeds and other garden uses, for stuffing horse collars, and other mechanical purposes. As a green fodder crop rye is valuable; the herbage after it is well established may be pastured late in autumn, and in early spring it affords succulent and nutritious food, which may be cut for cows from the time it is six inches high until the head is formed, when the stems become dry and useless.
Eye is held in but little favor in England, its cultivation being confined to some of the northern counties, while on the continent it is largely used, and in some localities is the common breadstuff of the population; its color is less pleasant than that of wheat, the bread made from it has a very dark color, and its taste and odor are to some disagreeable; it is capable of making a light wholesome bread, though less nutritious than that of wheat, as the grain contains from 2 to 3 per cent. less of nitrogenous principles. It was formerly the custom in England to sow two or three parts of wheat with one of rye, the grains being harvested and threshed together; the mixture, called maslin or meslin (Lat. miscellanea), is said to be better when thus grown together than can be made from the grains grown separately; bread from maslin is regarded as more nutritious than that from the poorer kinds of wheat. Rye meal is an ingredient in the New England brown bread, the other ingredient being an equal or larger amount of Indian corn meal. The Swedish peasantry subsist largely upon rye cakes, which are thin flat disks with a hole in the centre by means of which they are strung upon sticks to dry; they are baked only twice a year, and must be dried thoroughly.
Rye is somewhat laxative, and a mush made from the meal is a suitable food for those troubled with constipation. The roasted grains have long been used as a substitute for coffee. Eye is used in Russia to distil a spirit called quass; in Holland it is employed together with malt to make gin; and in this country much whiskey is made from it. The grain is sometimes attacked by a minute fungus which causes it to change its form and grow into a horn-like body several times larger than the grain itself, and known as spurred rye; where this occurs great caution should be observed in using the grain for food, as it is highly poisonous. (See Ergot.) - The total production of rye in the United States, according to the census of 1870, was 19,918,795 bushels. The states producing the largest quantities were: Pennsylvania, 3,557,-641 bushels; New York, 2,478,125; Illinois, 2,456,578; Wisconsin, 1,325,294; Kentucky, 1,108,933; Ohio, 846,890; Virginia, 582,264; New Jersey, 566,575; Missouri, 559,532; and Kansas, 505,807:
Rye (Secale cereale). - Head reduced, and single Spikelet enlarged.