Alpine rye from Siberia

Dominik Flammer

This rye is one of the oldest grains in the Alps and is sown around the summer solstice on 24 June. As a result, it is also known as solstice rye or Siberian rye – named after the country from which it originated. However, it is predominantly known as perennial rye as it dates back to the days when slash-and-burn agriculture was still common. Once our ancestors had torched an area of forest to gain land, this rye would be the first crop they would sow. The forest floor – fertilized by the residues of the slash-and-burn method – provided the necessary energy for this quick-growing grain, the stalks of which can measure up to three metres in length. One advantage of this cultivation method was that the tall stalks in the forest clearings were protected from powerful gusts of wind by the surrounding trees. If it weren’t for the protection of the trees, the stalks would have been constantly flattened by the wind, which could have led to significant crop failures. This is likely one of the reasons that this grain rarely made its way into the open fields in the countryside. Solstice rye has been discovered by organic farmers in recent years following the increase in popularity of ancient wheat varieties such as spelt, emmer and wild einkorn. Aargau-born Demeter farmer Daniel Böhler won the Swiss organic award for his rye in 2018, in particular for his polished perennial rye, which can be boiled down beautifully, just like the Basel kernotto (a polished ancient spelt), similar to risotto. Seasoned with a little Alpsbrinz, it makes a wonderfully creamy and light accompaniment to roasted vegetables. Head chef David Zurfluh also likes to serve this wonderful combination as a vegetarian dish in the CULINARIUM ALPINUM in Stans. For meat lovers, he adds some crispy pork belly from Alpine pigs. Although perennial rye can’t compete with modern rye varieties in terms of yield, it has been very popular for quite some time and won awards that conventional rye farmers could only dream of. A number of bakers have also recognized that this incredibly tasty grain can be used to make highly seasoned breads with a crunchy crust and a unique crumb. It is also available from Daniel Böhler as a fine flour:




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