Farmers insist that coloured rice is full of nutritional values
As fair skin matters a lot for us Indians, so does the colour of the rice! When gourmets have a liking for snow-white rice and ‘idlis’ as white as jasmine, farmers naturally go for enhanced ‘polishing’ to make rice as white as it can be. Neither the rice millers, nor do the end-users (rice-eaters) know the quantum of loss.
While India had 40,000 traditional paddy varieties in the past, just around 3,000 exist now. Of course, there are the red rice, brown rice and black rice, which are fast vanishing from the public domain and are confined to certain traditional pockets and among the medicinal plant growers. As the present generation moves away from rice to roti, farmers insist that the coloured rice is full of nutritional values. “In fact, the red rice does not digest easily, hence it is good to control obesity”, a farmer explained to the farm scientists among the visitors, who were amused to note its features. The black rice is used to make ‘Payasam’ or sweet porridge in certain temples. Alas, the colour-conscious people are more interested in removing the outer layer.
The ‘Traditional Seed Mela’ organised recently by SV University’s Virology department and Bangalore-based South Asian Rural Reconstruction Association (SARRA) witnessed an unprecedented surge of farmers, especially those growing traditional varieties through organic methods. The event showcased the nutrition-rich rice varieties found in India some 70 years back. SARRA has painstakingly collected 750 of the 3,000 varieties of traditional rice believed to be cultivated in the country.
Fifty types of aromatic rice and ten varieties of red rice, brown rice and black rice were on display at the exhibition by farmers at the event, which amused the participants. “The nominally-priced varieties were sold out in no time”, Rohini Reddy, Executive Director of SARRA told The Hindu . SARRA believes in propagating the rice varieties generation after generation, without their pristine nature getting spoilt by hybrid varieties.
Another highlight is that the traditional farmers exhibited rice varieties that are blast-resistant, tolerant to caterpillar and greenhorn caterpillar, water-logging, salinity, drought-like situation and those fit for alkaline soils. A variety from Assam can be eaten directly by adding to water, without having to be boiled! Creating a database of farmers having the traditional varieties, which is to be documented and passed on to posterity, is however an uphill task.