One of the most famous produce of Kerala is its indigenous Palakkadan Matta rice that has been grown in the lush green belt of Palakkad for centuries. According to historians, Matta rice was partaken only by the members of the royal family of the Cholas and Cheras. This rice was exclusively cultivated for the royals in their large gardens. One day, a curious farmer who chanced upon it took a sample in an areca leaf and began cultivating it on his land. Needless to say, this variety was relished by all and soon replaced the commonly used chama rice that was consumed by them. This rice then gradually came to be called as Matta rice. As this rice is largely cultivated only in Palakkad, it was known as Palakkadan Matta rice.
The agro-climatic conditions prevalent in Palakkad like the black cotton soil rich in lime, potash, magnesium and calcium carbonate and poonthalpadam soil that contains 60 – 80 percent clay and silt, low permeability and high water holding capacity, humid weather conditions, easterly winds blowing through the Palakkad Gap, ample sunshine and the waters from the rivers flowing from the Western Ghats are extremely conducive for cultivating this variety of rice. The rice is cultivated using age-old techniques only.
Interestingly, Palakkadan Matta rice has been mentioned in several ancient Tamil texts like the famous Tirukkuṟaḷ. The rice is coarse, bold in shape and red in colour. The red pericarp is rich in nutritional value and parboiling of the rice ensures retention of the nutrients.
Matta rice is high in fiber and nutrients, recommended for diabetic patients as it helps in regulating blood sugar level as well as insulin production, the magnesium content in the rice helps to maintain blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attacks and iron quantity boosts immunity levels. Matta rice is rich in anthocyanins, manganese and zinc.
The rice is used to prepare kanji and local delicacies like kondattam and murukku. The fluffy rice has a nutty flavour and is easily digestible.
This native variety of rice received the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2007.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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