GC #42 – Dry Farming Rice


Koshihikari Rice

Koshihikari Rice

Rice – Grown on dry land

I love rice, as do billions of people around the world, but here’s the thing.  It’s traditionally been a water intensive crop and that’s a problem for a warming planet likely to experience sustained droughts while having to feed a growing population.

Rice - Traditional Growing in Bali

Rice – Traditional Growing in Bali

Dry rice farming is an alternative that I discovered when I bought a pound of rice from Heinz Thomet, one of my favorite famers at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market in Washington DC.  If you live in the Washington area, I urge to try Thomet’s vegetables and grains.  His website is http://nextstepproduce.com/about

Thomet ‘s brown rice is the sweetest, most delightfully textured and flavorful rice I’ve ever eaten.  When I was there last week, a woman told me she couldn’t get her  husband to eat brown until she tried Thomet’s.  And he grows his rice the dry way.  The Washington Post published a lengthy piece about him, which I’ve quoted below.   http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/rice-grown-in-maryland-farmer-sees-a-future-that-doesnt-involve-flooding/2013/12/16/e4b6ccee-523a-11e3-9e2c-e1d01116fd98_story.html.

“For the most part, rice in the United States is grown in flooded fields or the

Rice Growing Bali

Rice Growing Bali

boggy lands near rivers or other bodies of water, after practices that date back millennia to rice farming in China and Southeast Asia. The floodwaters serve a purpose: They control weeds that otherwise would compete with the rice plants, which have a unique ability to survive the oxygen-less environment of a paddy field.”  It turns out that dry farming is an international effort that people call “system of rice intensification, or SRI.”

“What exactly is SRI? Erika Styger, director of programs at the SRI International Network and Resources Center at Cornell University, lays out four practices that broadly define the system. They are transplanting seedlings at a young age (to promote disease and pest resistance); reducing plant density (to decrease competition); adding organic matter such as compost to the soil (to increase fertility); and eliminating flooded fields (to allow the roots to breathe better).” WP\

It’s labor intensive but  “… farmers can produce higher yields (between 20 and 100 percent higher than conventional harvests) with up to 50 percent less water and 90 percent less seed … What’s more, SRI can eliminate fertilizers, reduce the methane gases that scientists say contribute to global warming, and dramatically lower the levels of inorganic arsenic, the most toxic form.” WP

After some experimentation, thomet’s found that a Japanese rice called Koshihikari Rice Koshi Bagresponded best to his soil and climate.  Koshihikari is a short-grain rice, noted for its sweet, nutty taste, slight stickiness and its translucent quality.   In japan, it’s cultivated as a highly valued “boutique” rice.

Many of my friends gave rice cookers and try swear by gem, but I’ve got to limit my culinary machines, so I make rice the way my mother taught me.

Rice raw TSIngredients for fluffy rice

2 cups premium rice, as fresh as possible.

2 cups water.

Preparation of fluffy rice

  • Wash the rice in its cooking pot until the water runs clear.
  • Drain off most of the water by pouring it from the side of the pot.
  • Add two cups water.
  • Bring to a boil, stir once and reduce to a very slow simmer.
  • Cook covered for about thirty minutes, until all the water is absorbed.
Rice - cooked Koshihikari

Rice – cooked Koshihikari

About Christopher Koch

Christopher Koch is a journalist and filmmaker who is now teaching at Montgomery Community College
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