Colorful and tasty ancient rice varieties, which are grown in limited quantities on small farms in countries such as China, Spain, and Bangladesh, are popping upon U.S. store shelves. Like brown rice, most varieties retain the bean layer, which holds many of the nutrients. That means they're higher in fiber, protein, calcium and B vitamins than white rice. More so than brown rice, these varieties have complex, flavors ranging from earthy, herby and nutty to fruity and sweet.
Chinese Black Rice, an iron-rich variety, is nutty, smoky, and low in starch, making it ideal for cold salads.
Bomba, grown for centuries in Spain's Calasparra region, is a pale, short-grain rice with a mild flavor and firm grain. The rice's unique ability to soak up flavorful broth (it's capable of absorbing three times its volume in liquid) makes it the ultimate choice for paella.
'Heirloom rices are like fine wine,' says Caryl Levine, whose company, Lotus Foods, imports rice from Asia, Europe, and South America. ' The soil, the climate, and the altitude are all unique to each growing area, giving each rice a distinctive flavor and texture. ' You can buy these varieties at health food stores, some supermarkets, and online at www.tienda.com.