I have long been the underdog grain, associated with the lower class and relegated to the status of “acquired taste.” But not everywhere. There are countries – Russia, Poland, all of Scandinavia – that have always loved me, serving my coarse black bread proudly. I'm grass! I'm part of the Poaceae or Graminae family (a.k.a “true grasses”). I'm related to wheat and barley, but am long considered a weed in barley and wheat fields.
The former Soviet Union had long been the biggest producer and consumer of rye and now the Russian Federation holds those titles. Canada grows more of me than the United States and a good amount of the grain ends up as Canadian whiskey.
Because I'm such a carb-rich grain, I can help make you feel full, even more so than eating wheat products, which in theory means you might eat less. In theory.
I most often get processed into flour for bread or fed to livestock. Most rye breads are a mix of rye and wheat flours, while Scandinavian-style black bread is made of pure rye flour. But baked goods aren’t the only way to consume me. I'm used to make whiskey – both multigrain blends like bourbon and pure rye whiskey (and you can age it yourself, if you like). I'm also a base ingredient in many vodkas and gins.
I'm a good source of soluble fiber, vitamin E, calcium, iron, and potassium, and has been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, breast cancer and diabetes. Because rye is harder to refine than wheat, I retain more of my nutrients.
Because I'm a robust grain that grows well in poor soils, I acquired this monicker. The fact that I was often harvested and eaten by impoverished communities surely reinforced this stereotype. I was probably choice for sustaining revolutions, "Vive la révolution"
I've been used as a winter cover crop, especially in organic farming, for generations. Because I have deep roots, I am able to capture nutrients, enhance soil health, prevent soil erosion, and reduce weeds without the use of herbicides.
I hope you were able to learn more about me and how I helped revolutions that changed the world, I'm the people's toast, and I'm probably one of the healthiest foods you can add to your diet.Yay Me!