Cultivating a rice-eating habit amid Coronavirus lockdown

Spirit of the Earth wants people to share heritage rice recipes on Instagram, to understand mindful eating and immunity building

Published - March 28, 2020 05:37 pm IST

Garlic rice made with thengapoo champa heritage rice

Garlic rice made with thengapoo champa heritage rice

“Research says it takes 21 days to form a new habit. We have 21 days at home — yes, it’s a lockdown, but it’s also an opportunity to reflect on our lifestyle, and understand the impact of it on our health, environment and community at large,” says Jayanthi Somasundaram of Chennai-based Spirit of the Earth, an organisation which focusses on conservation and cultivation of heritage produce.

Spirit of the Earth is now encouraging everyone to share recipes that use heritage rice via Instagram, which they will in turn post on their Instagram handle, @spirit_of_the_earth_2017. With the focus being on mindful eating and immunity building during the lockdown, information on the rice used for each dish will also be shared.

The visual stories to be shared for the next 21 days will revolve around three major themes.

The first will be what heritage rice actually is — What have you tried? Is it healthy? Is it easy to cook? Is it tasty? Why should one opt for heritage rice, over the polished hybrid variant?

The second will be mindful living — Where does your food come from? Have you been to a farm? Do you know a farmer? What are the native varieties of crops? Is organic really helpful for the soil?

The third will be immunity-building foods — What are the colours on my plate? Is more colour healthier? Can rice build immunity? How much rice should I have for each meal? What can I make with the rice water?

“The recipe has to be something simple, nothing too fancy. We believe these stories will encourage conversation in so many homes,” Jayanthi says, adding, “Change may not come right away, but these conversations will certainly strike a chord. Once people are aware of what they are buying, where they buy, what they eat and how they live — they will evolve from mere consumers to contributors to society.”

CEHNNAI : TAMILNADU : 14/12/2018 : FOR METROPLUS: Spirit Of The Earth, a venture of AIM SEVA in Alwarpet in Chennai on 14th December,2018 . Photo : K. Pichumani/ The Hindu

CEHNNAI : TAMILNADU : 14/12/2018 : FOR METROPLUS: Spirit Of The Earth, a venture of AIM SEVA in Alwarpet in Chennai on 14th December,2018 . Photo : K. Pichumani/ The Hindu

As many families are spending mealtime together, there is a surge of interest in cooking healthy meals. At this time, Jayanthi says they hope to introduce people to native varieties of rice, which are not just healthier, but also better for the planet. “At our 50-acre agricultural land in Manjakudi, near Tanjore, we cultivate close to 40 different varieties of heritage rice, and are constantly striving to revive more varieties,” she says.

Wide range

When it comes to heritage rice, each variety has a unique taste, aroma and property. Fragrant ones include gobindobhog , ajara ghansal , katarni , sukhdas and iluppai poo champa . From the farming perspective, rice varieties can be classified into kuruvai (short duration crop, 60 to 90 days) and champa (long duration crop, 120 to 130 days).

“We have certain rice varieties that are best suited for making idli and dosagarudan champa, poongar, kullakar, iluppai poo champa, thooyamalli and navara. For preparing traditional snacks like murukku and thattai , we recommend thooyamalli, perungar or ramakali rice. This is the best season to make vathal and vadams, and for that thengapoo champa is best suited,” Jayanthi says.

She adds, “This activity is for people to understand that simple changes in lifestyle can bring about much bigger changes too. We think this is the time when people are going to think about life and reflect on their choices, and hopefully make better decisions at the end of the 21 days.”

Share your heritage rice recipe via email to or call 9500082142. Recipes and visuals will be shared on the Instagram page.

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