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duced into England many ages ago. There are two varieties of this species, occasioned more probably by difference of culture than by any inherent variance in the plants: one is known as winter and the other as spring rye.
It was formerly usual to sow rye together with an early kind of wheat. The harvested grain, thus necessarily intermixed, was termed meslin, from miscellanea: it also obtained the name of mungcorn, corruptly from monk-corn, because bread made with it was commonly eaten in monasteries.
With the exception of wheat, rye contains a greater proportion of gluten than any other of the cereal grains, to which fact is owing its capability of being converted into a spongy bread. It contains, likewise, nearly five parts in every hundred of readyformed saccharine matter, and is in consequence easily convertible into malt, and thence into beer or ardent spirit; but the produce of this last is so small, in comparison with that of malted barley, as to offer no inducement for its employment to that purpose. Rye has a strong tendency to pass rapidly from the vinous to the acetous state of fermentation, and whenever that circumstance has intervened, it would be vain to attempt either to brew or to distil it. Unmalted
meal is mixed in Holland with barley malt, in the proportion of two parts by weight of the former, with one part of the latter, and the whole being fermented together forms the wash whence is distilled all the grain spirit produced in that country, and known throughout Europe as Hollands Geneva. There must, however, be some circumstances of a peculiar nature connected with the process, as conducted by the Dutch distillers, since no attempts made elsewhere have ever been successful in obtaining a spirit having the same good qualities.
Rye is the common bread-corn in all the sandy
districts to the south of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland, furnishing abundance of food for the numerous inhabitants of places which, without it, must have been little better than sandy and uninhabitable deserts. In these districts it not only forms the chief article of consumption, but furnishes a material of some consequence to the export trade of the Prussian ports.
The peasantry in Sweden subsist very generally upon rye-cakes, which they bake only twice in the course of the year, and which, during most part of the time, are consequently as hard as a board.Linnæus observed a curious practice in Lapland. One part of rye and two parts of barley being mixed together, the seed is committed to the ground as soon as the earth is capable of tillage in the spring. The barley shoots up vigorously, ripens its ears and is reaped; while the rye merely goes into leaf without shooting up any stem, its growth being retarded by the barley, which may be said to smother it. After the barley is reaped, the rye advances in growth, and, without any farther care of the cultivator, yields an abundant crop in the following year.
This grain, to which so many human beings are thus indebted for aliment, is subject to a disease which, when it occurs, not only deprives it of all its useful properties as food, but renders it absolutely noxious, and, it may even be said, poisonous to man. When thus diseased it is called by English farmers horned rye, and by the French ergot, from the fancied resemblance to a cock's spur of an excrescence which the grain then bears. Whenever this disease has been witnessed, it has usually happened that a wet spring has been succeeded by a summer more than ordinarily hot. Tissot, a French physician, bestowed much attention on this subject, and upon its melancholy consequences. It is from him we learn that the
excrescence just mentioned is an irregular vegetation, which springs from the middle substance, between the grain and the leaf, growing to the length of an inch and a half, and being two tenths of an inch broad: it is of a brownish colour.
Bread which is made of rye thus diseased has an acrid and nauseous taste, and its use is followed by spasmodic symptoms and gangrenous disorders.These effects cannot by any means be classed among imaginary evils. In 1596 an epidemic prevailed in Hesse, which was wholly ascribed to the use of horned rye. Some of the persons who had unfortunately partaken of this food were seized with epilepsy, the attacks of which, for the most part, ended fatally; of others, who became insane, few ever fully recovered the proper use of their senses; while some, who were apparently restored, were liable through life to periodical returns of their disorder.
Similar calamities were experienced in different parts of the Continent at various times, between 1648 and 1736, and these visitations have been recorded by Burghart, Hoffman, and others. In 1709, this diseased condition of the rye occurred in a part of France to such a degree, that in consequence of it no fewer than five hundred patients were at one time under care of the surgeons at the public hospital at Orleans. The symptoms first came on with all the apparent characteristics of drunkenness, after which the toes became diseased, mortified, and fell off. The disorder thence extended itself up the leg, and frequently attacked the trunk, and this sometimes occurred even after amputation of the diseased limbs had been performed, with the vain hope of stopping the progress of the disorder.
The poisonous quality of horned rye is not exerted upon human beings alone, both insects and larger
animals having been fatally affected by it; even flies, that merely settled casually upon the grain, have been killed by that means; and deer, swine, and different kinds of poultry, upon which experiments were tried, all died miserable deaths ; some in strong convulsions, and others with mortified ulcers. These circumstances must have been truly appalling by their severity and the frequency of their recurrence. Few evils, however, are wholly of an unmixed character, and this one is not of the number. Ergot of rye, which was formerly productive of so much misery, has since found admission as a medicine into our pharmacopæias, and is now, in the hands of skilful and honest practitioners, rendered subservient to the interests of society. Horned rye is of very rare occurrence in Great Britain.
BARLEY-Hordeum–is, next to wheat, the most important of all the cereal grains which are now cultivated in Great Britain. Its use as bread-corn has very much diminished of late years in this country, while its employment for the production of stimulant liquids, has, on the contrary, materially increased.
The Egyptians have a tradition, from which they believe that of all the grains barley is that one which was first used for the sustenance of man. Their histories assert that a knowledge of the art of cultivating this grain was imparted to their ancestors by the goddess Isis, who, having discovered the plant growing wild in the woods, instructed men how to cultivate it, so as at once to increase the quantity and improve the quality of its produce.
Uninstructed people are generally prone to refer to supernatural agency, the origin of all events for which they are otherwise unable to account. . Dr Franklin has related, as coming from the lips of a ehief of the Susquehannah Indians, a tradition very Ear and Plant of Common Spring Barley, similar to that of the Egyptians. “In the beginning," said this child of nature, our fathers had only the flesh of animals to subsist on; and if their hunting was unsuccessful they were starving. Two of our young hunters having killed a deer, made a fire in the woods to broil some part of it. When they were about to satisfy their hunger, they beheld a beautiful young woman descend from the clouds, and seat herself on that hill which you see yonder among the blue mountains. They said to each other, It is a spirit that perhaps has smelt our broiling venison, and wishes to eat of it ; let us offer some to her. They presented her with the tongue; she was pleased with the taste of it, and said, Your kindness shall be re