This one was actually sown as a green manure that we were planning to turn in to improve the soil... And well, when you forget to turn in a green manure, it just continues its life and grows to its full potential and eventually gives seeds! (This is probably the only existing case of productive procrastination.)
Food wise, rye is often ignored or limited to crackers and dark bread, which is a shame since it is a very nutritious cereal and healthier than wheat in many regards.
Actually, the grain is not the only yield here. The straw - the dried stem of the plant - is also an excellent source of food...for the soil! Straw contains proportionally more carbon than hay, which is dried grass or legumes. Straw is therefore a perfect ingredient for soil building as a mulch or in compost, especially when combined with more nitrogen rich elements such as urine, grass clippings, certain manures, food waste etc.
Returning homegrown straw to the soil is an essential part of the the simple and balanced cycle created by the farmer-philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka. He understood more than everyone that growing food implies giving back to the Earth after taking from her. Indeed, even though the grain took some nutrients from the soil, most of its food came from the sun and the air, unlimited and renewable sources. At the end, it's a net gain for the soil, especially when all the nutrients are kept in the loop, with compost toilets and straw back to the land.
Recent cultivars of grain are very often shorter which results in faster harvests and easier processing, but also less straw, which is not regarded as an essential biproduct anymore. (Our rye on this picture reaches up to 175 cm!).
This perspective illustrates the contemporary misunderstanding of the needs of our soils. Synthetic fertilizers, mineral powders, diluted juices and far-imported fertility, intended to feed the plants directly, cannot replace local whole foods such as straw, hay, compost or manure when it comes to feeding the soil on the long term. The narrowly scientific, productivity oriented approach cannot match the holistic perspective that encourages a constant flow of nutrients and energy from soil to plants, from plants to humans and animals, and back to the soil.
After threshing the grain out of the huls and off the straw, we will take back this small sheaf to our soil, and "the cycle won't be broken!"
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