Wheat, especially white flour, was always the food of the wealthy, whereas the poor had to make do with “darker” grains, rye and barley, which were also easier to grow tolerating poorer soil and less favourable growing conditions. Rye is used to make traditional German Pumpernickel bread. Unfortunately, Rye is very susceptible to ergot, which is a fungal disease. It’s fruiting bodies, which are somewhat larger and much darker than the seeds, form in the head in the place of the grain kernel and are extremely poisonous. If the seed is to be used for human or animal consumption, the ergot must be removed! A perennial rye has been developed but it has even more serious ergot problems which doesn’t make it a very good crop at present. Traditional rye cultivars were often 6 feet tall. Rye straw has been typically valuable to make matts because it is very long (as it grows much taller than wheat and barley) and might even resist decomposition more than wheat.
Sepp Holzer’s Rye is an annual rye cultivar that Sepp Holzer uses extensively on his permaculture farm at a high elevation in Austria. It is sometimes called a perennial but only because it is allowed to self-seed. We seeded it in the spring and it only made a large rosette of leaves (grass) the first year, but it rapidly produced seed the second year. It can also be spring seeded and mowed or grazed, or fall seeded. The plants are tall and slender with slim bearded heads. The seed is quite dark.Grains/Cereals / Rye
White Rye has tall (over 6’) gray-green plants that are not very stooled out. The long slim heads with medium beards produce light coloured grains and are quite subject to ergot.Grains/Cereals / Rye
In the spring of 2009 Jim seeded a sample of perennial rye and had 5 plants grow, which remained in the vegetative state all of that year. The following spring all 5 plants began growing early and produced seed. They have grown ever since and are now self seeding. Unfortunately they are very subject to ergot and have not produced much seed. However, the last two years have been our best crops with only 5-10% ergot.Grains/Cereals / Rye