Rye
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Rye, common name for an annual cereal grain, of the grass family, allied to wheat and barley. Rye is native to temperate Eurasia where it is mostly used as a bread grain (mixed with other grains) and as a livestock feed. It is less important as a grain crop in other parts of the world. Rye is also used as hay and straw; its straw, tougher than that of other cereals, is valued for making straw plaits. In addition, mashes of more than 50 per cent rye are used to make rye whisky.

The rye plant is characterized by slender seed spikes that consist of spikelets with two or more florets. The florets, which have rows of barbs and long terminal beards, or awns, must be cross-pollinated, unlike the florets of wheat and other grains. Several varieties of rye have been developed. All are hardier in winter than other cereals; the most extensively cultivated varieties, specifically called winter ryes, are adapted for sowing in autumn, whereas others are sown in the spring.

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Rye starch
(Amylum Secalis)
Often 45 microns, a few up to 60 microns

Rye was first cultivated rather late in human history, perhaps as recently as 2,000 to 3,000 years ago. It is still grown extensively in northern Europe and Asia. It lacks the proteins that make wheat suitable for leavening, and rye bread is denser and usually darker than wheat bread. So-called black bread or pumpernickel, popular in Germany, is made from rye. Rye infested with a fungus called ergot was responsible for several epidemics in medieval times.

There are two other species in the same genus as the rye plant. A distantly related genus contains some species known as wild ryes that are used as cover and for forage as well as some pernicious weeds.

Scientific classification: Rye belongs to the family Poaceae (or Gramineae). It is classified as Secale cereale. Wild ryes are classified in the genus Elytrigia.