CHIANGRAI TIMES – There’s a type of rice so delicious, it’s said, that a wife will eat it all and leave nothing for her husband when he returns home.
It’s known as “Forget Husband” rice, or “Khao Leum Pua”.
The black glutinous rice was given its humorous name 21 years ago by researchers who found it being grown by Hmong hilltribes located in Baan Ruam Thai Pattana village, Tak province.
“The Hmong did not farm the rice for commercial purposes but used it to make sweets for New Year’s celebrations. They didn’t pay attention to the quality of the seed,” said Dr Acharaporn Na Lampang Noenplab of the Rice Department.
Panus Suwanthada, who led the group that first found the rice more than two decades ago, decided in 1996 to improve the strain and give the resulting pure-line rice seed to the Hmong for planting.
“But the habit of the ethic villagers to grow several crops in the same area resulted in genetic variability,” Dr Acharaporn said.
Five years ago she and a team of researchers from the Phitsanulok Rice Research Centre agreed to start the development project again, but this time they used mass selection, a more effective method of achieving a purified strain.
The project was successful and the team was named an outstanding rice research group by the Rice Department on March 16.
The team members were Dr Acharaporn, Apichart Noenplab, Pongsa Sukserm and Poch Wajanapoom.
Khao Leum Pua, together with Khao Baanna 432, a rice variety that is able to survive in high levels of water, have been certified as new rice varieties by the department this year.
According to Dr Acharaporn, the newly developed variety of Khao Leum Pua has been distributed to rice seed centres in Chiang Rai, Phetchabun and other areas to be used as seed for replanting.
She expects that these centres will be able supply several tonnes of Khao Leum Pua rice seed for the next cultivation season.
Dr Acharaporn said the yield of the strain remains small, at an average of 250 kilogrammes per rai.
“The trial found the rice grows well in areas 400 to 800 metres above the sea level, in cool temperatures, and in loose soil. Under these conditions, productivity could be more than 350 kilogrammes,” she said.
Since Khao Kho in Phetchabun is a perfect site, the researchers have encouraged villagers there to plant the rice for eventual sale.
Dr Acharaporn said the grain is similar to purple brown rice, but Khao Leum Pua contains higher levels of certain nutrients and other beneficial substances.
These include Omega-3, Omega-6, Omega-9, Vitamin E and anthocyanin. Both grains have Vitamin B1 and B2, zinc and protein.
“Steamed Khao Leum Pua has both crispy and tender qualities, which makes it quite tasty,” she said.
Khao Leum Pua is worth 45-50 baht a kilogramme for the seed and 20 to 25 baht/kg for grain for consumption, according to Dr Acharaporn.
The Rice Department is planning to promote the rice, as well as other indigenous strains that have high nutrient levels, to cash in on rising demand for healthy foods.
Director-general Chairit Damronkiat said that the department initiated a five-year project this year to conserve wild rice varieties. About 20,000 samples of rice have been selected for strain purification and further development.
The department will support the research and development so Thailand can produce more varieties of rice for local consumption and export. The country has 27 rice research centres.
Writer: Walailak Keeratipipatpong