Ceylon Traditional Rice – A Precious Part of Our Nation’s Health and Wealth
An introduction to traditional rice varieties
As you know, rice is a cereal grain, the most widely consumed staple food for over half of the world’s human population, especially in Asia and Africa. In Sri Lanka, it is the main staple food. Among many Sri Lankan rice varieties, the Ceylon traditional rice varieties have surfaced again and have captured the attention of many international and local consumers and cultivators for several important reasons.
Traditional rice history in a nutshell
Back in the past, about 600 traditional rice varieties had been cultivated by Sri Lankan farmers. Now there are over 2000 different kinds of traditional rice varieties being cultivated in Sri Lanka due to the increasing demand.
Environmental friendliness of the rice cultivars
It is observed that almost all those traditional rice varieties are organically grown under natural conditions without the application of agrochemicals and inorganic fertilizers, which very much adds up to the environmental sustainability of the ecosystems and the environmental friendliness.
There is much scientific evidence to prove the rich nutritional values and beneficial qualities of traditional rice varieties. In addition, several traditional varieties are tested to have high nutritional values and other therapeutic values.
For example, although rice contains comparatively less protein content than those other cereals, rice comprises the highest digestible protein and has a relatively good balance of amino acids. Not only that, many traditional rice varieties consist of low glycemic index, high antioxidant activity and high fiber content.
Important micronutrients in traditional rice varieties
Rice grains with intact bran contain comparatively higher nutrients, such as dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins as well as health-promoting bioactive phytochemicals such as phenolics, flavonoids, γ-oryzanol, tocopherols, ferulic acid, phytic acid, and tocotrienols.
Factors affect the nutritional value of traditional rice
The nutritional value of rice is influenced by the genotype, environmental conditions under which the rice is grown, postharvest processing, storage, and degree of milling. The proteins, fats, and vitamins are concentrated in the germ and outer layer of the endosperm so milling can reduce the nutrient contents, but milling improves the shelf-life and affects the appearance and palatability of rice.
Factors which affect the growth of traditional rice varieties
Many of the traditional rice varieties can overrule the harsh environmental contentions. It is because, traditional rice varieties have naturally evolved to a considerable level so that some of them fit better to different agroecological conditions such as drought, submergence, salinity, and iron toxicity than newly improved rice varieties and this gives a competitive edge to the traditional rice varieties even with a comparatively low yield.
Consumer’s preference on traditional rice
In addition, traditional rice has more variability in grain nutrition, texture, appearance, and aroma than cooked rice. The main concern of the consumer is to have rice varieties with superior grain quality in terms of their cooking and eating quality attributes, which in turn largely depends on the physicochemical and cooking properties of milled rice. Which can be easily obtained with the natural properties of the traditional rice varieties and with proper rice processing methods.
Traditional rice varieties
Some of the well-known traditional Ceylon rice varieties are, Wannidahanala, Sulai, Pachchaperumal, Kalu Heenati, Kuruluthuda, Gonabaru, Hondarawalu, Rathna Samba, Hangimuttan, and Kahawanu. Now due to the market demand, the cultivation of traditional rice varieties has spiked up and now it’s your chance to purchase the harvests of these traditional rice varieties for your meals to enjoy new flavors with some added health benefits.