Rye is a cereal grain, similar to wheat but darker and much hardier, which originated in South West Asia about 6,000 B.C. Its cultivation spread westward towards the Balkans. During the Middle Ages rye was a major crop in most of Northern and Central Europe, i.e. Finland, Scandinavia, Norway, Germany and Russia.
Rye is usually grown where other cereal grains fail, it is very hardy and will prosper in poorer soils. Rye is the only other cereal grain which can be used exclusively to make bread. Unlike wheat, when rye is milled the bran does not separate from the germ, so all the goodness and fiber will remain. Of course, a loaf made only with rye will be dense and very dark. A lighter more porous bread is achieved by combining rye with wheat flour.
Caviar, smoked salmon, smoked meats, cheeses, corned beef and pickles are just a few of the things that go particularly well with rye breads, crackers or crisp breads.