Rye, or Secale, L. a genus of exotic plants, comprising live species, one of which only is raised in Britain, namely, the Cereale, or Common Rye. It was supposed by LinnAeus to be a native of the Isle of Candia, whence it is said to have been introduced into Britain ; but it is doubtless a northern plant, as it thrives and flourishes most luxuriantly in cold climates.
The common rye is divided into two varieties, viz. the Spring, White, or Silvery Rye; and the Winter, or Black Rye. Both are propagated from seed in the proportion of 2 or 2 1/2 Winchester bushels per acre, generally on poor, dry lime-stone, or sandy soils, where wheat does not thrive; and, if it be sown on such lands two or three successive years, it will at the end of that period ripen a month earlier than such as has, for a long series of years, been raised from strong, cold ground.
The proper season for committing the seed to the earth, depends greatly on the nature of the rye: that for spring or white grain, is from .February to March ; as that for the black or winter rye, is from the middle of September to the latter end of October, in South Britain. Both these varieties, however, are advantageously sown together with wheat, at the rate of one peck of rye with one bushel of wheat: the seed of the former is also harrowed in among a thin crop of turnips, and both are fed off with sheep.
Formerly, considerable quantities of rye-meal were converted into bread) sometimes being kneaded alone, and occassionally with a small portion of wheaten flower. It is, however, seldom used at present in this country, on account of its being subject (especially during hot summers that succeed a wet spring) to a disease, known in France under the name of ergot; but which is called in England, horned rye, spur, or horn-seed. The grain thus affected grows out into large horns, containing a mixture of black and white farinaceous powder; and is said to appear as if it were pierced by insects, which are conjectured to cause the disease. By the use of such damaged grain, the poorer classes of people, both in France and England, have often been afflicted with fatal disorders, accompanied with extreme debility and gangrene, or mortification of the extremities. Horned rye is equally fatal to brutes: sheep, dogs, swine, deer; nay, geese, ducks, and other poultry, that were fed with it, by way of experiment, became violently convulsed, and died in great agonies. So deleterious, indeed, are its, effects, that it has even destroyed the flies which settled upon it.
But though rye, when diseased, be thus prejudicial to men and animals, yet in a sound state it is an excellent grain for bread flour and often yields abundant crops. It may also be advantageously fed off early in the spring by sheep, and somewhat later with horses and cows; or, it may be mown and given to the latter in the stables. - The straw of this grain is excellent for thatching, and is also used by brick-makers, collar-manufacturers, and for packing. Farther, we are informed by Mr. Marshall, that in the country of York the farmers always sow a small quantity of rye with their wheat, which they believe is thus preserved from the injurious disease, known under the name of Mildew. Lastly, every kind of poultry have such an antipathy to this grain, that they avoid the place where it vegetates: hence it has been advantageously sown in head-ridges, around farm - houses, and yards, as a kind of protection to other grain.
With respect to its physical properties, we shall only remark, that pure and sound rye, though less nutritive than wheat in a similar condition, affords good bread; which, to persons of a sedentary life, is attended with the beneficial effect of preventing costiveness, or obstipation of the bowels.
Wild Rye See Barley, the Wall.