Rye is a grass grown extensively as a grain, a cover crop and a forage crop. It is a member of the wheat tribe (Triticeae) and is closely related to barley (genus Hordeum) and wheat (Triticum). Rye grain is used for flour, bread, beer, crisp bread, some whiskeys, some vodkas, and animal fodder. It can also be eaten whole, either as boiled rye berries or by being rolled, similar to rolled oats.
Rye is one of a number of species that grow wild in central and eastern Turkey and in adjacent areas. Domesticated rye occurs in small quantities at a number of Neolithic sites in (Asia Minor) Turkey, but is otherwise absent from the archaeological record until the Bronze Age of central Europe, c. 1800–1500 BCE. It is possible that rye traveled west from (Asia Minor) Turkey as a minor admixture in wheat, and was only later cultivated in its own right. Archeological evidence of rye has been found in Roman contexts along the Rhine, Danube, and in Ireland and Britain.
Since the Middle Ages people have cultivated rye widely in Central and Eastern Europe. It serves as the main bread cereal in most areas east of the French-German border and north of Hungary. In Southern Europe, it was cultivated on marginal lands.
Claims of much earlier cultivation of rye, at the Epipalaeolithic site of Tell Abu Hureyra in the Euphrates valley of northern Syria remain controversial. Critics point to inconsistencies in the radiocarbon dates, and identifications based solely on grain, rather than on chaff.
- Armenian Botanical Society (ABS)
- Lebanon Agricultural Research Institute (LARI)
- Plant Genetic Resources Institute (PGRI - Pakistan)
- University of Pavia
- Genetic Resources Institute (GRI) of Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences
- Spanish Institute for Agricultural and Food Research and Technology (INIA, Spain)