Heirloom Rice Varieties Around The World

Heirloom rice is a specific breed passed down through generations. Their colors are vibrant and offer a unique cooking experience. Heirloom rice has outstanding nutritional value, flavor, aroma, and texture. How come farmers have abandoned heirloom rice varieties in recent years?

Poor productivity and ardor led people to abandon heirloom rice farming day by day. The advent of faster-growing, higher-yielding, and easy-to-cultivate hybrid varieties was the cause. But the rising demand for organic food has reopened the door to heirloom rice.

What Distinguishes An Heirloom Rice Variety From Other Types?

Heirloom rice varieties are resilient to environmental stresses. They have high tolerance and resistance to diseases. Compared to common rice varieties, they are far more nutritious. You can grow heirloom rice varieties with organic fertilizer or minimal chemical fertilizers.

The Ifugao and other highland tribes’ ancestors cultivated heirloom rice varieties. Certain varieties are disappearing from the world. Others are on the verge of extinction.

Many doctors recommend these heirloom rice varieties for their medicinal properties. Traditional medicine practices place a high value on heirloom rice consumption. Heirloom rice-based diet patterns help improve the immune system.

In the context of heirloom rice varieties, Sri Lanka is significant. A long relationship exists between rice cultivation and the country’s history. Sri Lanka was once known as the granary of the east, offering more than 2000 varieties of native rice.

Heirloom Rice Varieties Found In Sri Lanka


Suwandel is a white rice well known for its high nutritional value and sweet aroma. It contains more carbohydrates, vitamins, and micronutrients than common rice varieties. 

Suwandel is famous for improving skin complexion and vocal clarity. It helps prevent constipation and improves sexual potency. 

Diabetic patients can keep diabetes under control with Suwandel. It improves their general health as well. Suwandel’s milky flavor makes it an ideal choice for ceremonial occasions. An acre can produce about 1000 kilograms per yield in a short cultivation period (3 ½ months).

Kalu Heenati

Kalu Heenati is a medium-sized, dark, fine grain rich in minerals and micronutrients. It has outstanding nutritional value for lactating mothers. Nutrients like iron and zinc make it ideal for daily consumption.

The Kalu Heenati porridge can treat hepatitis patients. Kalu Heenati is beneficial for easing bowel movements and constipation. Daily consumption increases physical strength, sexual potency, and immunity. 

An acre produces 800-1300 kilograms per yield within 3 1/2 months. Kalu Heenati thrives in dry zones.


Pachchaperumal is a nutritious red rice variety. It is very famous due to its many health benefits. The term “Pachchaperumal” means “The color of Lord Buddha.” Pachchaperumal is exceptional for diabetic patients as it can help increase insulin production. 

It is high in proteins, vitamins, micronutrients, and antioxidants. Pachchaperumal gives health benefits for high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases. It can reduce thyroxine production in the body. It also can control nephron activity and improve excretory system function.

Within 3 1/2 months, an acre can generate 800-900 kilograms per yield. Yala is the best season to grow Pachchaperumal. Sri Lanka’s rice cultivation pattern follows the two main seasons of “Yala” and “Maha.”


Maa Wee

Maa Wee is a reddish-brown variety that is high in zinc and iron. The plant has robust root systems and healthy tillers. Among the subvarieties of Maa Wee are Kuru Maa Wee, Baala Maa Wee, Maha Maa Wee, Sudu Maa Wee, and Kohu Maa Wee. 

A regular diet of Maa Wee reduces body weight and improves body shape. The ancient Sri Lankan queens loved Maa Wee because of this. Maa Wee is low in carbohydrates and rich in protein and fiber. 

Maa Wee can cool down your body. Heart disease, tuberculosis, and diabetes patients enjoy the best results from Maa Wee.

In this variety, an acre produces 1600-1800 kilograms per yield. Maa Wee group is photoperiod sensitive at 5-6 months. Flash floods do not affect the plant as they can tolerate submersion conditions. The Maa Wee plant thrives in Sri Lanka’s wet and intermediate zones.


Kuruluthuda is a wholesome red rice known for enhancing male sexual potency. It is delectable and rich in protein and fiber. The term “Kuruluthuda” means “bird’s beak.” Kuruluthuda can improve bladder function.

The Glycemic Index of this rice is 25-30% lower than other common rice varieties. The Sri Lankan lowlands are home to most smallholder farmers who grow Kuruluthuda. They use rainwater for cultivation. Organic cultivation can take 5-6 months.


Madathawalu has a higher protein and mineral content when compared to other varieties. It contains properties that help strengthen the immune system of lactating mothers. Madathawalu provides relief from burning sensations in the body. 

Madathawalu can stimulate sweat gland activity. It activates inside the body to remove toxic components, including cancerous agents. As well as cleaning the blood, it improves blood circulation. Regular consumption helps control oxidative stress and diabetes.

Both organic and general cultivation facilities can use Madathawalu. Plants grow about 130 cm high and thrive in muddy soil.


The meaning of “Masuran” is gold. The high medicinal value may have led people to name it so. Traditional medicine recommends Masuran to heal inflammation, neurological disease, diabetes, and cancer. Daily consumption helps reduce cholesterol levels and oxidative stress. 

The Masuran yields about 1700 kilograms per acre and is resistant to blast disease. As the plant matures, its leaves droop downward, providing weed control. Masuran prefers the wet zone. This medium-grain red rice has a cultivation period of 3 1/2 months.

Spanish Bomba and Chinese Black Rice are examples of other traditional rice varieties.

What Countries Are Producing Heirloom Rice?

The Philippines’ Cordillera mountains in northern Luzon are famous for producing heirloom rice. China, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Korea, and Thailand cultivate heirloom rice. Japan, Spain, and Indonesia also use this conventional approach.

Rice is a global staple crop essential to food security and cultures worldwide. Over 40,000 cultivars of Oryza sativa exist around the world as local varieties. China’s Yangtze River basin dates back 13,000 years to the first rice cultivation. 

Rice spread to other parts of the world through migration and trade. All forms of Asian rice, both indica, and japonica, sprang from a single event. Then the rice spread to Southeast Asia and the Korean peninsula. 

Further, it reached the Japanese archipelago and the Indian subcontinent. Later, rice farming spread to Africa, North America, and Europe.

Is It Still Worthwhile To Produce Heirloom Rice In This Modern Day And Age?

Heirloom rice varieties have a high demand due to their exceptional medicinal value. In both domestic and foreign markets, these cultivars fetch higher prices. 

These varieties play a vital role in keeping people healthy. Heirloom rice varieties maintain the genetic diversity of the world’s food crops.

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