Grains of change

At Spirit of the Earth, Sheela Balaji introduces us to ancient grains that turn purple when cooked, smell like jasmine and more

Welcome rains have lashed Manjakudi, a village with a population of 1,500 in Tiruvarur district, and a warm breeze wafts across the banks of the river Chozha Choodamani, a distributary of the Cauvery. The lush paddy rustles and waves in response. This is the heart of today’s parched Delta region, traditionally known for its fertile fields and bountiful yield.

It’s fitting then that this is where seven heritage varieties of rice are being raised across 40 acres that belong to the Swami Dayananda Educational Trust — from Kaatuyaanam, which grows to over seven feet tall and is capable of hiding an elephant, and Karuppu Kauvuni, a deep purple-black variety that turns sticky when cooked, to Thooyamalli, said to resemble jasmine buds.

These heritage grains are the result of years of work put in by select farmers and Sheela Balaji, chairperson and managing director of AIM for Seva and the Trust. Now, these grains and products made by tribal women and specially-able people find a new home in Chennai, courtesy their new store, Spirit of The Earth, in Mylapore.

 Rooted in tradition

Balaji has, for long, been fond of everything natural. Until about 15 years ago, her store, Soundaraya, was known for its work with natural dyes. She then became inspired by late cultural activist Pupul Jayakar’s Festival of India, and almost organically, moved to another field, again related to the land. “In Manjakudi, farms are all you see. And when you grow hybrid varieties, you have to keep buying seeds every year. I started off with the desire to keep alive these precious heritage grains that you can keep reusing,” she says.....Read more


Source web page: The hindu


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