Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Rye apparently arose in southwest Asia, migrated with domesticated wheat and barley as a weed in the crops of early farmers, reached the coast of the Baltic Sea around 2000 BCE, grew better than the other cereals in the typically poor, acid soil and cool, moist climate, and was domesticated around 1000 BCE. It’s exceptionally hardy, and is grown as far north as the Arctic Circle and as high as 12,000 feet/4,000 meters. Up through the last century it was the predominant bread grain for the poor of northern Europe, and even today the taste for rye persists, especially in Scandinavia and eastern Europe. Poland, Germany, and Russia are the leading producers. In Germany, wheat production exceeded rye for the first time only in 1957.