How many kinds of rice do you know? I probably know about 5-6.. And so it was a revelation of sorts when I discovered there are over 30+ kinds of rice.. And today at the Spirit of Earth’s Annam event I learnt about a handful from this lot and how they are not only healthy, but versatile as well. 
I got a chance to meet Smt. Sheela Balaji [Chairperson and Managing Trustee of AIM for Seva] who shared that ‘Spirit of the Earth’ is an initiative that hopes to promote healthy living. Situated in Mylapore, the initiative is born out of AIM for Seva’s office. Here they also sell Organic Heritage Rice, handmade products using natural fibre made by tribal women of Anaikatti, Coimbatore, and handwoven cloth and paper creations by the residents of Krupa Home (a residential facility for the differently-abled). One will also find books on good living written by Swami Dayananda Saraswati here. 
Along the shelves you will find raw and par-boiled versions of seven varieties of rice grown in their 40-acre organic farm spread out in the soils of the Kaveri delta in Manjakkudi, Kumbakonam. These varieties of rice are all organic, heritage, non-hybrid, pesticide-free in nature and rich in nutrients. Some of the rice grown and sold are Iluppai Poo Champa, Kaatu yaanam, Kala jeera, Kichali Champa, Karuppu Kauvuni, Mapillai Champa, and Thooya mall.   All these varieties are not only rich in nutrients but come with a plethora of health benefits as well. There is a history to these and it is quite fascinating to hear them today [trying to relate to them to the period they belonged to] 
Not just that, each rice has a peculiar name and there is a story behind that as well. For example, Kaatuyaanam got its name because it grows over 7 feet tall, tall enough to cover a wild elephant and hence the name. Katu meaning forest and yaanam meaning elephant. The rice keeps diabetics and arthritis under control, boosts immunity and protects one against skin problems.
Mapillai champa got its name because back int eh days in small villages, they would invite the newly wed couple to the bride’s home for a feast the day after the wedding. This rice variety is known for visor and virility and so a biryani was made with this and served to the groom. ;o) [talk about being forward]
The Kala Jeera rice is from the Koraput region in Orissa [Kora is set of tribal people who hail from a small village and this was all they knew to cultivate]
Aim For Seva had organised Annam event partnering with Rakesh Raghunathan, who is passionate about food to cook and offer inputs on a few of these rice varieties, giving the audience a glimpse into the world of indigenous rice. Across the two hour session, we saw how Iluppai Poo Champa Bonda, Mappilai Champa Halwa using the fibrous rice and  Kala jeera rice pulao was made. Rakesh went on to explain how each of the rice varieties were packed with healthy nutrients, could help deal with various health conditions and how they can replace the regular rice used at home. 
It was quite an insightful and interesting event, esp for someone like me who loved to cook and experiment with ingredients. He also told us about Lila pulao. Apparently the food that Jains eat during the fasting period was called Lila Khaana and so this pulao got its name from the same.  
Well, I got back home and yapped on & on about all these rice varieties with grandmon who herself hadn’t heard of half these varieties. We decided to buy a few varieties and try some recipes at home. Now that project is still pending, but shall happen soon. It is amazing the kind of food history we have in our country and across the borders. Just wish some of the lost trends would be reintroduced … 
The dishes

 The store.. 

Spirit Of The Earth 
Open: Monday – Friday
Timing: 10 am to 5 pm.
3rd Floor, Srinidhi Apartments,

No 4, Desika Road, Mylapore
Chennai – 600 004
(For more information, contact Sumita: +91 95000 82142)

Facebook page – Spirit Of The Earth to know more about their events and products.
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