My Berry Farm

Rhy Berries

White rye-type bread

White rye-type bread (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rye berries grow as a grass closely related to wheat and barley. Until about 400 BC this grass was considered a weed. Wheat and barley were the preferred grains and rye berries were ignored by all but the wandering four-legged animals who had an eye for good nutrition.

Until recent interest in rye berries because of their low gluten and high water-soluble fiber content, the use of rye has been spotty in culinary history. Rye berry found a place in rye bread and pumpernickel, in whiskey and vodka, in cereal and animal fodder. The flavor most people associate with rye comes from their experience with rye bread. The flavoring agent in rye bread is caraway seed. Caraway flavor is in no way indigenous to rye berries.

Probably because it will survive a snow storm, rye has been widely used in Eastern Europe where a barley or wheat crop would be wiped out with such freezing weather. From those cold regions you can find bread recipes calling for only rye flour. Such recipes came about because there was only rye flour to work with. Rye berries have been referred to as “black wheat”.
Cooking with Rye Berries: Rye Flour and Whole Rye

As with any grain, freshly ground rye flour will produce a superior loaf of bread. The fresher the better! The answer is to stock up on rye berries and grind them every week or so depending on the amount of baking you do. Store the freshly ground flour in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Most recipes for rye bread call for no more than 1/3% of rye flour to 2/3% wheat flour. Rye is low in gluten which makes it difficult to handle in bread making. A 100% rye bread is very dark and heavy. Adding wheat flour causes the bread to rise better, having a lighter texture much more suited to the Western palate.

In cooking the whole rye berry, rye berries make a fine substitute for the more commonly used rice. The texture is chewy and flavor rather like walnuts. Anyone appreciating the taste of wild rice will enjoy cooked rye berries. To cook, rinse 1/2 cup of berries and place in a saucepan with 1 3/4 cups water and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Bring the mixture to a boil then cover and lower the heat. Simmer for an hour or until the rye berries are tender. Drain off any remaining liquid. Use these cooked rye berries as a cereal, as a side dish, as an addition to soup and a countless number of other ways.

One form of rye berry is the rye flake. The flake is made by cutting and rolling the rye berry into a flat affair resembling rolled oats. This form of rye is popular in cereals and in grain mixes for baking bread.

Buying Rye Berries

rye berries B vitaminsIf you are using rye berries on a regular basis you will want to buy in bulk. However, only buy what you think you will use in a nine-month period. After this, the freshness is noticeably going down hill.

Look for a trustworthy supplier of bulk grains who deals in only organic. With all the work of cooking fine food, you want the finest of nutrients in that food. Organic ingredients are of great assistance in your campaign.

You might also look for winter rye. Rye berries can be grown as a winter or a spring crop. The winter rye grows so robustly that it wipes out any of the winter weeds growing in its space. Hence, the farmer has no need for herbicides. This is a little more assurance that your rye berries will be as chemical-free as possible.

Before ordering your rye berries look for the organic certification. If the certification is not apparent, assume there is none. Those certifications are hard to come by and organic growers will surely tell you if they have it.

Buy Rye Berries for Fresh Rye Flour

Our preference whenever it is possible is to make fresh ground flour out of your whole rye berries. You will have a fresher flavor, a better-tasting bread, and your bread will be even healthier as we mention below with the phytic acid and nutrition information. Fresh ground flour is not really difficult to integrate into your kitchen practices if you are already baking anyway. Watch the video for a quick rationale.

Storing Rye Berries

Storing Dry Rye Berries: Keep your rye berries in containers with tight-fitting lids. Keep the containers in a cool dry place and check periodically for bugs. If you do end up with some bugs, pull the container from its location. Pour the rye berries into a large colander at the sink. Rinse the berries in hot water and follow the directions for cooking. Cooked rye berries will keep in the freezer. While the rye is cooking, thoroughly wash the rye container and lid with hot soapy water. Rinse and dry. Keep an eye on other containers for signs of bugs.

Storing Cooked Rye Berries: When cooking rye berries it makes sense to cook a double or triple batch: one for the refrigerator and one for the freezer. Refrigerate leftover rye berries in a closed container within two hours of finishing their cooking. These rye berries will stay useful and tasty for 3-5 days. Frozen rye berries are at peak for a month and then slowly lose quality.

Nutrients in Rye Berries

Rye berries mineralsRye berries will add a nice portion of B vitamins and minerals to your diet. Note in the table below that they are particularly high in manganese. With many grains, we alert readers to their phytic acid content — a substance that can inhibit your absorption of minerals from the rye berries. One great benefit of rye is that it is high in the phytase enzyme that breaks down phytic acid. When rye flour is mixed with wheat, as it is in many bread recipes, the enzymes in the fresh rye flour will help break down the phytic acid in the entire loaf, including in the wheat. This is another reason to grind rye berries fresh into flour in your own home. Check out our sister site on phytic acid for more information.

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