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Tamilnadu News

Traditional medicinal rice variety conservation gaining ground

Archana Rohit


Traditional food and dishes have a historic precedent in national, regional or local cuisine. However, the benefits of traditional food are fading away without any trace due to the heavy influence of Western food.

Unfortunately, the rich heritage of consuming various varieties of rice has been vanishing since the green revolution. There were more than 3 lakh rice varieties in the country and more than 5,000 varieties were available in Tamil Nadu, say agriculture scientists. However, nearly 200 varieties of rice have been saved in Tamil Nadu. Besides, nutritional and medicinal benefits, the by-products of rice are equally important and beneficial, says expert, Menakathilarajan, owner of Mannvasnai Organic shop

Each type of rice has unique properties like taste, size and texture. Here is a guide to some varieties of rice with its medicinal purposes.

1. Kala Namak (Crop duration – 120 days)

It is one of the finest quality rice in the country. It derives its name from black husk (kala = black; the suffix ‘namak’ means salt). This variety is in cultivation since the Buddhist period (600 BC). It is believed to be better than basmati in all aspects except grain length and is considered the finest quality of rice in international trade

Medicinal properties: Cures diabetes, BP and problems related to kidney, skin, blood, cancer and brain.

According to farmer Mani: “Buddha is believed to consume only this rice and even today Buddhist monks carry this wherever they go. The reason they live longer is that they consume this rice.”

2. Tooyamali (Crop duration – 140 days)

Thooyamalli, also known as ‘Maapilai Samba’, is a traditional rice variety and gets its name from its striking resemblance to jasmine buds. It used to be a tradition to feed bridegrooms with this rice before the wedding. It is suitable for preparing biryani.

Medicinal properties: Increases nerves strength, improves digestion, cures mouth ulcers and helps reduce diabetes.

3. Kullakkar (Crop duration – 90 to 105 days)

Kullakkar, is short red rice cultivated in summer. The crop is highly drought, pest and disease-resistant and locally the straw is a preferred to thatch roofs. The rice can be used in the preparation of idli, dosa, puttu or porridge as well. Red rice varieties have antioxidant properties and a higher content of zinc and iron than white rice

Medicinal properties: Revitalizes and energizes the body, helps to bring down bad cholesterol levels and controls blood sugar levels.

4. Seeraga Samba (Crop duration – 120 to 125 days)

Seeraga Samba is an aromatic rice. It derives its name because the small white ovular fine grains resemble seeds of seeragam/Jeera/cumin. It is mostly cultivated in the Samba season (August to January). The grains are much smaller than other varieties and when cooked less ‘fluffy’ and loose in texture with a starchy/corny flavour. Rich in vitamins, it is high in calorie. Traditionally, it is used in the preparation of variety rice like biryani, tomato rice, lemon rice and tamarind rice.

Medicinal properties: Prevents colon and intestine cancer, reduces cholesterol. It is rich in fibre. Hence, it reduces the LDL cholesterol and increases HDL in the body.

5. Karung Kuruvai (Crop duration – 110 days)

Karung kuruvai rice has got a ‘kayakalpam’ property which will protect our body. Siddha doctors use this rice variety to prepare medicines. According to farmer Mani: “This rice helps dilute all the bad cholesterols in our body. It can be consumed as rice and it is also very much suitable for idly and dosa.

Medicinal properties: Helps treat people suffering from Elephantiasis.

6. Poongar (Crop duration – 70 days)

Poongar is also called as ‘Arubatham Kodai’. The crop can grow even during extreme climatic conditions and can withstand floods and grow with less water. It is also suitable for idly and dosa.

Medicinal properties: Provides strength to the body. It is believed that consuming this rice during pregnancy leads to normal delivery.

7. Kattuyam (Crop duration – 180 days)

This rice is very rich in minerals and used majorly as ‘kasayam’ and also good for making rice, idly and dosa.

Medicinal properties: Helps control diabetes, prevents heart problems.

8. Kavuni (Crop duration – 130 days)

This rice has been in existence from the Chola period. Red and black kavuni rice are available in the market.

Medicinal properties: Provides strength to the body. Black kavni rice is used to treat dog bites.

Meneka also added, “Kichadi Samba rice is good for preparing pongal and sundaram. Kichadi samba rice has got high medicinal property and is good for treating skin problems.”

Urbanisation and hectic lifestyle have made people dependent on easily available fast food items, resetting our taste buds. Institutions like Create and Ciks are trying to save these traditional rice varieties. As citizens, it is our social responsibility to save our traditional food, culture, including rice varieties and pass the same on to the next generation.

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