Food Trend: Back to Back in Black

An online piece from Australian Food News http://www.ausfoodnews.com.au/2012/01/03/wholegrains-new-grains-fibre-content-all-among-consumer-preferred-trends-in-us.html quoted an article from Food Technology published in December 2011.  It caught my interest in Forbidden Rice or Black Rice, since I’ve never tasted this.   It also made me recall other natural food products I’ve encountered in 2011 that are naturally black.

Black/Forbidden Rice

A few clicks on the net directed my search to a West based company in the US called Lotus Foods, whose expertise is in the distribution of exotic rice.     On the FAQ section of their website, it explains that Forbidden Rice, an heirloom variety is aptly named since it was once reserved only for the emperor and his family in China.

The black colour is natural and is attributed to the outer bran layer.   It might also be due to where it  is grown, in the black hummus soil of the Black Dragon River of the Northeastern provinces of China.  Black rice is also grown in Japan where it is called Kurogome (or black rice),  and in Thailand as a glutinous black rice cooked in pudding with coconut milk.

The dark colour of the forbidden rice relates to the high content of antioxidants, particularly anthocyanin that is also responsible for imparting the dark, purplish, bluish hues in fruits and vegetables.   In August 2010, CNN health writer Carina Storrs article “Is Black Rice the New Brown”, black rice is compared to fresh blueberries where she cites that “One spoonful of black-rice bran — or 10 spoonfuls of cooked black rice — contains the same amount of anthocyanin as a spoonful of fresh blueberries, according to a new study presented today at the American Chemical Society, in Boston”. She further added that Black rice would be better to consumer since fresh blueberries contain sugar.

In an online post on WHFoods.org titled “Is Purple Rice (referred to as “forbidden rice”) Better for you than Brown Rice?” the nutrient values were directly compared and concluded that based on their nutritive content, they were not significantly different, and in fact almost at the same level.      The author concluded that if price was a deciding factor between the two rice varieties, the Brown rice would be better due to its cost advantage over Black rice.

Taste-wise, I have yet to taste Black rice.    It seems from various posts that both have a nutty flavour.   Black rice however is a short grain rice whereas Brown rice is a long grain rice that absorbs more water and takes longer to cook.

Black Garlic

Black Garlic

Black garlic has its roots in Korea and China.  Blackgarlic.com explains that fresh garlic bulbs are carefully monitored for about 4 weeks in a controlled environment of temperature and humidity where they undergo a fermentation process.  Since garlic contains sugar and amino acids, these elements when fermented produces melanoidin that causes the black colour.      The result is a sticky, black clove that is soft and mushy with a sweet flavour and complex undertones.

Edible Bamboo Charcoal Powder

I had to do a double take when I saw this.   Japan seems to lead all other countries when it comes to unique food ingredients.  The idea is that charcoal has natural absorption properties, so when ingested it helps prevent the body from absorbing harmful chemicals or poisions.    This Japanese site illustrates some product applications for edible charcoal powder :  http://global.rakuten.com/en/store/taketora/item/su00248/.      I’m not too keen on trying this out for the new year.

Black / Beluga Lentil

Black / Beluga Lentils

Black lentils are popularly used in Indian cooking and are the smallest of the lentils.   They are also referred to as Beluga Lentils due to their shiny resemblance to Beluga caviar.
Black Beluga® Lentil is a trademark of Timeless Seeds, Inc., their website mentions that among other lentil varieties, the black lentil has the highest amount of protein.

In the UK, it can also be found in the retail markets in a ready to eat pouch, simmered in stock.

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