Kalanamak is one of the finest quality scented rices of India. It derives its name from black husk (kala = black; the suffix ‘namak’ means salt). This variety has been in cultivation since the Buddhist period (600 BC). It is quite popular in Himalayan Tarai of eastern Uttar Pradesh, India, and is also known as the scented black pearl of Uttar Pradesh. It was also featured in the book ‘Speciality rices of the world’ by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Kalanamak rice is rich in micro-nutrients such as Iron and Zinc. Therefore, having this rice is said to prevent diseases borne out of Iron and Zinc deficiencies. It is said that regular intake of Kalanamak rice can prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Government of India came out with Nutri-Farm scheme in 2013, with the aim to promote food crops that have critical micro nutrients to fight malnutrition and improve nutrition status of the vulnerable section of society. Kalanamak rice was one of the nutri-crop selected for this scheme.
Kalanamak also outclasses basmati in agronomical abilities. It’s a successful adapter to usarsoils characterised by higher salt concentration and high p h. The name itself — ‘namak’, salt — signifies this quality. Most of the 40 germplasm lines the gbpuat team tested on usar soil showed salt-tolerance at 70 millimolar nacl and good root/shoot growth at high p h of 9 to 9.5.
Kalanamak is also highly resistant to notorious, and in India common, rice diseases such as panicle blast, stem rot and brown spot. Bacterial blight is quite rarely observed. In this respect, this variety is significantly superior to Dehradun basmati: the latter is more susceptible to these diseases.
Kalanamak rice is said to outshine even the most exclusive Basmati rice in all quality traits except grain length. Kalanamak rice is a non-basmati rice with short to medium grain length. Aroma of Kalanamak rice, which is said to be the gift of Gautam Buddha, is stronger than all Basmati varieties. Elongation after cooking, which is one of the most important quality trait in the international rice market, is 40% greater than Basmati rice. Cooked kalanamak is softer and fluffier that other rice varieties. Amylose content is close to 20% as compared to 24% and higher in Basmati. High amylose levels tend to make the rice cook firm and dry. Rice with a medium amylose content of between 16% and 22% usually cooks softer and the grains stick together more readily.
These days, however, acreage under this variety declined sharply, forcing it to near extinction, for various reasons, some of which are
- outburst of Panicle blast epidemics during two consecutive years: 1998 and 1999
- tall stature of the crop causing lodging
- long duration of harvest (6 to 7 months)
- non-availability of quality seeds and research support