Revival of local rice varieties

In order to increase the yield of rice to meet the needs of food in the country, high yield laboratory engineered rice varieties also called hybrid varieties have replaced the local varieties which yield less all over the country. Many areas like Punjab and Haryana in North India which were not rice growing areas have become the major rice growers. This though has helped the Green Evolution and commercialised the farming, has played havoc by excessive water drainage from the underground and contamination of water by heavy metals present in the fertilisers and insecticides which cause many diseases. But the white or polished rice that whole of our country people have become accustomed to have less beneficial nutrients and more starch which increases the risk of diseases like diabetes.

Some farmers in the rice growing West Bengal are trying to reverse this trend by resorting to grow the local varieties which despite being low yielding have nutritional value which more than compensate the low yield. One such farmer is Bhairav Saini who lives in Bankura, about 200 km from Kolkata.

For several years now,  he and many farmers are engaged in this task in many districts of West Bengal. Growing the rice by traditional methods without use of fertilisers and insecticides, in fact this also lowers the cost of growing the crops.

Saini, and several others in Hooghly, Dinajpur and 24 South Parganas, in West Bengal, have been engaged in reviving lost, indigenous paddy varieties of Bengal, simply because they’re cognizant of the health benefits of grains grown the traditional way. Burdwan, the rice bowl of Bengal now grows organic Gobindobhog rice in over 30,000 hectares of land. Besides Gobindobhog, other old varieties of scented rice like Radhatilak, Kalonunia, Kalojeera, Tulsimukun etc are also gaining popularity slowly. These have a high mineral and vitamin content along with other health benefits.

Unlike his peers in North India, Saini is not driven by profit making but due to his concern for the health issues of the people. As the times are changing and organic products are a buzz word, the rice they are now growing have started fetching higher prices. Some of the local varieties they are reviving have names like Kala Bhaat, Bohurupee, Leelabati, Durga bhog, Oli, Radhunipagol, Kalo nunia, Katari bhog, Radha tilak, Kalash and so on. Setting up the seed banks is also an important endeavour.

Inputs from an article published in the Economics Times of India.

Rare Foods Series : Ash Yoghurt 

Some communities of West Poker County of Kenya make this Yoghur. They add the ash of cromwo tree known in local dialect as “mala ya kienyeji” or “kamabele kambo. The ash acts as a disinfectant and gives Yoghurt a unique aromatic taste and bright Grey color.

Yoghurt for men is made from Cow’s (crosses between local breeds and zebù) and for women and children is made from local galla goat’s milk which is rich in nutrients.

Raw milk is collected in a calabash, a traditional container made from pumpkin and gourd varieties, and let stand for at least three days. Cromwo tree ash is added when the milk is fermented. Flavor depends upon the degree of fermentation.

Lantana Shrubs

It is the start of month of September. Still it is very hot during the day but mornings have begun to become cooler. Sometimes very strong breeze welcomes you when you are outdoors.

While going out these days in the morning, I noticed multitudes of butterflies. These although are very agile and usually rarely sit still at one place are seen sitting peacefully on the leaves of shrubs.

There are many species of shrubs growing wildly in our area. Names of many of these are not  known to me as will be to others because no one is interested in knowing the names of weeds and shrubs which are of no tangible use to us although nothing exists in nature that is without purpose.

There is one such shrub which grows abundantly here and these days giving different color of flowers. While passing by these shrubs you will be welcomed by strong aromatic smell exuded by these flowers.

Lantana’s aromatic flowers clusters  called umbels are a mix of red, orange, yellow, or blue and white florets . Other colors exist as new varieties are being selected. The flowers typically change color as they mature, resulting in inflorescences that are two- or three-colored.

About 150 species exist worldwide. The leaves contain poisonous chemicals but its ripe berries are eaten by many birds. Thus the plant uses very clever strategy to survive and propagate. Animals don’t eat its leaves and birds spread its seeds far and near helping the plant to proliferate. Thus at many places it becomes invasive irritant.
Its one use is that it is a honey plant.

I took some pictures of flowers of different varieties prevalent here.

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