Rice everywhere

Jeremy’s latest Eat This Newsletter has three — count them — pieces on rice. Here’s one of them. Do check out the others too though.

Rice by Any Other Name

Sometimes, I read an article and I marvel at the erudition it contains even when I cannot fully understand it. So it was with Deepa Reddy’s deep dive into Rice names & Memory work. She makes a strong case for the importance of names that describe Indian farmer varieties of rice and tell us more about them, but of course without any familiarity for the language much of the story was lost on me. One tidbit I picked up on: “Njavara with its potent medicinal value is ‘wild water grass,’ like the ‘Nivara’ of the old texts.” Oryza nivara is one of rice’s closest wild relatives. Is Njavara that wild relative, or a cultivar that resembles, or something else entirely?

The article contains a lot more in the intersection of agriculture, anthropology and ethnography and one bit that I hope to see explored further. The rice festival on which Deepa Reddy reported included a demonstration of the importance of memorisation to oral tradition, “by having a few young children recite, from top-to-bottom and entirely from memory, all the hundred-odd names of rices revived, conserved, and now grown in Tamil Nadu by local farmers”. She goes on to say:

Such memory practices and names do a lot more than just remind and entice; they help us understand the still vast array of heritage rices by telling us something about them, helping us to get to know them, remember them, choose between them, and by such methods safeguard them for all the time to come.

Yes, but what are the mnemonics that the children use? A memory palace for rice?

Brainfood: Biodiversity review, History, Maize history, Maya ag, Agroecology, Ancient curry, IK, Culture & policy, Breeding review, Pacific PGRFA, Pacific breeding, Epidemics, Xylella

Nibbles: Heirloom pean, Genebanks, Students, Community seedbanks, Kunming fund, Kenyan sorghum, Italian grapes, Wild tomatoes, Mouflon, Coffee poster, Early modern watermelons, Korean language, Farmers’ rights

  1. Why heirloom seeds matter.
  2. Why genebanks full of heirloom seeds matter. Even to kids.
  3. Why community seedbanks full of heirloom seeds matter.
  4. Just how much agrobiodiversity matters, according to FAO.
  5. Why heirloom seeds of neglected crops matter.
  6. Why heirloom seeds of sorghum matter in Kenya. No, really.
  7. Why heirloom grapes matter in Italy.
  8. Why seeds of wild tomatoes matter.
  9. Even wild sheep matter.
  10. Why visualizing coffee diversity matters.
  11. Why watermelons mattered in the 17th century.
  12. Why bottle gourds mattered to Koreans.
  13. Why farmers’ rights matter.

Nibbles: Ukraine genebank, Inequality, Olive breeding, Colorado apples, Indian rice diversity, Edible trees, Australian Grains Genebank

  1. Spanish-language article about the effort to save Ukraine’s genebank.
  2. Report on “Reducing inequalities for food security and nutrition” from the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE-FSN) of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). They don’t say so explicitly, but genebanks can help with that.
  3. They can certainly help with breeding new olive varieties, which are much needed.
  4. Genebanks come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes an apple orchard is also a genebank.
  5. Sometimes rice farmers are genebanks.
  6. I wonder how many genebanks conserve trees with edible leaves. This book doesn’t say, alas.
  7. The Australian Grains Genebank (AGG) gets a boost. No word on whether it will start conserving edible trees.

Brainfood: Pre-Neolithic starch, Neolithic sheep, Maghreb Neolithic, Neolithic Europe, Neolithic transition, Macedonian Neolithic, Ancient Iranian crops, Early chickens, Pre-Columbian landscapes,