This Mylapore store shelves heritage rice that improves your memory
How many indigenous rice varieties can you name? If you drew a blank like we did, non-profit organisation AIM for Seva’s initiative ‘Spirit of the Earth,’ a retail store that shelves organic heritage rice promises to leave you fascinated. Currently, the outlet shelves a different grain for every day of the week — ranging from the light red Kaatu Yaanam that grows tall enough to hide an elephant, to Karuppu Kavuni, traditionally had when a girl attains puberty, to increase the iron in blood and to stop accumulating fat in the back and hip region.
We catch up with Sheela Balaji, who hails from the illustrious TVS group family and is the Chairperson and Managing Trustee AIM for the Seva and Swami Dayananda Educational Trust for more:
Can you tell us a little about the varieties sourced, and where they are coming from?
India is home to over 10,000 varieties of indigenous rice. When we decided to go in for farming, we selected a few varieties that would grow well. Our farm is located at Manjakkudi in Thiruvarur district, near Kumbakonam, in the delta region of the Kaveri.
We hear there are seven varieties currently at the store. Are there plans to up this number soon?
Yes, we do plan to keep many more varieties - as and when the harvest season is over. Our next crop should be in another five months.
For the layman - who is unfamiliar with most of the names - are most of these varieties rare and difficult to access?
These varieties are not difficult to access. It is just that people are unfamiliar with them. Ever since the green revolution started in the 1960s, the indigenous varieties gave way to hybrid ones because of the difference in yield. But now, some would like to return to their roots. When there is a demand, supply will come.
Can you give us the health/medicinal properties of some the varieties?
Take Kalajeera rice for example. It is also known as the 'Prince of Rice' Taking a darker shade it looks like cumin seeds. It is believed to increase hemoglobin levels and body metabolism. This fragrant grain has antispasmodic, stomachic, carminative, hypolipidemic, antibacterial, astringent and sedative properties. Ancient text explains that Kalajeera improves memory and controls diabetes.
Red rice like Kaatuyaanam, is mainly cultivated in Tamil Nadu and grows upto over seven feet tall. It has the ability to hide an elephant, hence the crop was given this name. ('Kaatu' meaning forest and 'Yaanam' meaning elephant). The rice keeps diabetics and arthritis under control, boosts immunity and protects one against skin problems.
In red rice, the bran layer is rich in polyphenols, anthocyanin and has antioxidant properties. Their zinc and iron content is two to three times higher than what you would get in white rice.
At Spirit of the Earth, located at Srinidhi Apartments, 4, Desika Road, Mylapore. Time: 5.30 pm.