Maybe its a bit rich to go on about something as common and every day as rice – and apart from anything else most non-Asian contexts don’t really get into the rice at all. I certainly didn’t. Yet here we are, in Asia – where we no longer eat straight cooked white rice at all. But we do eat a vast array of rice dishes ranging from yellow, black, red and mixed to sweets and cakes and ferments and other exquisite culinary delights.
Lately, we have tried our hands at growing rice at the farm. These types of rice don’t grow in water (padi) but on the earth. We are growing red rice and black rice (which takes a little longer). So far so good but the birds love it so we have our work cut out for us!
Apart from the magic of watching the rice grow, intercropped throughout the organic farm, our anticipation is around the amazing smell in the kitchen when it is cooking and the taste, the quality. Can’t wait! It’s such a shame that we humans have sacrificed our heritage for efficiency.
We have lost far more than we imagine including old strains of rice and many other seed crops. This is our little attempt to try and keep some of what we are loosing to the bureaucracy of multinational greed. Yes, sadly, even growing rice is political.
Over time – particularly the past 40-50 years – rice has been hybridised – meaning that it is ‘desexed’ and bred strengthened to grow faster and more resistantly (and it means that farmers need to rely on buying seed) and more recently genetically modified for even fastener growing and more resilient crops – and even more reliance for the farmer on seed stock.
This means the many varieties of old heritage rice are disappearing. These kinds of rice took longer to grow – up to 9 months but an average of 6 months. And the modern rice takes 3-4 months so have a greater yield. But at what cost?
The quality of heritage rice is generally better – the vitamin content and believe it or not the protein, while being very slight, is still higher.
In Indonesia, there are at least 45 varieties of rice for wet-field production (sawah) and 150 varieties of rice for dry-field production.
Maybe you can join us for some wild rice cooking around the table or for an organic growing workshop and some seed saving insights…