Getting to the north of Peru, to the department of Lambayeque, means finding yourself in a coastal strip, very arid and with large dune areas, but also with several green valleys around three important rivers: Chancay, La Leche and Zaña, surrounded by rocky hills. In these valleys are found most of the rice paddies of the country. Just to give us an idea, about 17 thousand tons are sold every month in the wholesale market of Santa Anita, in the capital city.

 

This cereal is always an accompaniment to many dishes of Peruvian cuisine, often as a simple garnish, and other times, as the protagonist, but if it is missing on some occasion, it is quickly valued again for its incomprehensible absence. Therefore, it is of great importance in the country.

 

This time we talked with the rice producer Mr. Teodorico Quiroz Pompa, an octogenarian born fighter who has spent his entire life growing it with his family in the small town of El Espinal, next to Zaña. This river descends from the Ande Cajamarquino until it flows into the Pacific Ocean, and thousands of hectares of this cereal are irrigated from its waters.

 

Lambayeque rice is medium-short grain and the current varieties that are grown are Pítipo, Ferón, Valor, Fortaleza, Mallares, IR-43, Amazonas, Tinajones, La Puntilla, and La Esperanza. Each one with different characteristics of resistance in the field and taste on the table.

 

Planting is done twice a year, the first date is in January and the second one in August. And the corresponding harvests are in May-June and December-January. These are also the best dates to contemplate the rice fields since they create beautiful landscapes. When the farmers are preparing the land for planting, the white herons follow the movement of the tractor, which makes it easier for them to dig the mud and find food. And then, at harvest time, the field changes the color from green to gold.

Next, with the guidance of Mr. Teodorico, we will see step by step, how is the harvest and production of this cereal, and how it has evolved over the years. Also, he tells us how to recognize good-quality rice.

 

By Fabiola Gálvez

 

 

Step 1. Pre-germinate seeds.

We have a jute sack of rice seeds, and we let it soak for about 70 hours in a water channel so that the rice grain with husk absorbs the liquid.

Then, we take the seed out of the sack drying in the sun for 24 hours. The area is warm, about 28 degrees in winter, so no more time is needed.

 

Step 2. Preparing the land.

The soil must be moistened so that the stubble from the previous harvest works as a type of fertilizer. Then we plow with a tractor. Although, in the area, many of the farmers still prefer to perform this task with the yoke or plow pulled by bulls or oxen.

Then the fields are flooded with water.

These flooded fields are the so-called rice seedlings or seedbeds, and they till with the agricultural machine called power tiller or “mechanical mule”, which mix water with the soil. Next, with an iron shovel, the soil will be leveled so that it is as uniform as possible.

You should wait until the next day that the water in the seedling clears up and be transparent to begin planting.

 

Step 3. Germination of seeds

To do this, the farmer takes a handful of seeds from a sack and throws it into the seedling. They spread it. So that the rice can finish germinating, it takes about 2 weeks, it grows very fast.

 

Step 4. Preparation of the soil for transplanting seeds.

In a nearby land, the germinated seed transplantation will be performed for its maturation.

For this, the land is enriched with the stubble, then it is plowed and finally to remove the land lumps, the agricultural dredging machine is used, which is a plow that pulls the tractor and has 22 discs, which level all the soil, and then proceed to level with rufa or lampón (excavator shovel).

Preparation for transplantation and planting
Preparation for transplantation and planting

 

Step 5. Transplanting

After 28 to 30 days, the transplantation is performed.

First, you must remove the plants from the seedbed. The farmhand enters the pool and with his hands plucks the paddy seedlings. Then, they gather several bunches and tie them with raffia straw or synthetic fiber, although formerly it was made with chante, a rope extracted from the dry bark of a banana tree. And so several bunches or garbas are stacked.

Taking bunches of rice from the seedbed
Taking bunches of rice from the seedbed

 

Step 6. Planting the transplanted bunches of seedlings

Bunches are unleashed so that the farmer patiently place 4 to 5 seedlings per stroke so that it settles itself in the mud, he embeds them one by one on the water. Each bunch is planted with some distance so that it is not all agglomerated. To complete this step, all the water is extracted from the seedling, to become a seedbed to thicken the land where the rice will definitely grow, forming part of the plot.

And after about 10 days it will be fertilized.

Sowing transplanted plants
Sowing transplanted plants

 

Step 7. The fertilizer

The most common fertilizers are urea and ammonium sulfate and should be applied in two doses. The first dose at 90 days, and the second at 100 days. The amount of fertilizer will depend on the weather, the more heat, the less fertilizer will be needed.

 

Step 8. The maturation.

At 3 months, the rice begins to flower on the spikes. And by the fourth month, the plant has already produced grains.

 

Step 9. The harvest.

The reaping can be done when the rice spikes are golden, starting the harvest.

Reaping was usually done by cutting the spikes with a sickle. Then the era proceeded, which is the action of stacking the spikes in the shape of a mountain, the spikes must have the same position and had to be dried 1 day in the sun. Nowadays, there are mowers or harvesters, which greatly facilitate the work. These machines have a head that cuts the straw and then unloads the harvested rice through a long tube.

 

Step 10. The threshing.

It is the procedure by which the grain is separated from the straw. It is done the day after reaping, and it used to do it with the help of 8 to 15 horses, which are tied with ropes to the neck and spurring them on circularly all around the era. In this way, the horses frequently step on the rice, until the grain drops below, and the straw, above. Curiously in this procedure, there was no threshing machine, which was a tool used in other places, such as in Spain.

And then the women arrived with big pots of food like chicken or duck stews, and chicha de jora, it was a party for everyone.

Now, it is simply done with the harvester, which does it all.

 

Step 11. Hulling

The hulling is the process where the husk is removed from the rice.

Before hulling, it must be dried in the sun from noon until 4 in the afternoon, because at that time the sun is stronger and that helps to reduce moisture, and thus take care that the grain doesn’t break in the hulling.

And the next step is to take it to the shelling machine. The shelling machine takes care that the grain is clean, but also from the hulling, the rice husk is obtained, which is used to make adobes or pulitón, a cleaner to shine the pots, and rice powder is used for animal feed.

Everything changes over time. In the past, harvests were a celebration for everyone, but now that production has been greatly improved, the workforce of a large part of the population is no longer needed to carry out harvest and unfortunately, several customs like that have been lost.

In the same way, in the past, the farmer used to keep his seeds, but custom doesn’t exist anymore. Now there are seed processors that distribute them in jute bags of 40 kilos.

And as one of Mr.Teodorico’s sons says, “Now horses no longer exist, now there are motorcycles in the area [laughs]”.

 

And finally, he leaves us a tip:

“How to recognize a good grain of rice”

It is like doing the water test, when it is real rice, you rinse it and the starch comes out and the water turns milky white, otherwise it would be a “plastic” rice as Mr. Teodorico calls a bad rice, meaning if you rinse it, the water remains transparent due to lack of starch.

For any further information, you can call the phone numbers: +51 954168736 or +51 949148664 and its location is Carretera PE-1NI, before reaching El Espinal. You will always be welcomed with open arms.