Jeykot Sticky Rice

Ark of taste
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In the Kalinga dialect, red sticky rice is known by a common name, and the spellings vary according to different dialects: jeykot or chaycot in Pasil, jekot in Lubuagan. This generic term refers to a medium grain glutinous variety belonging to the rice species Oryza sativa japonica. This plump red variety has a salmon colored bran on top of a milky white grain. It is the preferred sticky rice grown in the municipalities of Lubuagan and Pasil, Kalinga, Philippines. The plant has varieties that are both with and without awns. Awns are the beard-like bristly appendage on the end of the compound flowers. Lachok refers to the brown khaki hull variety with short awns. Jumalling refers to the light brown hull with 2 – 3 black stripes and no awns.  

Jeykot sticky rice is a slow-growing glutinous rice that requires at least a 4 – 6 month growth period from transplanting to harvest, depending on elevation. It is planted from December to February and harvested from the middle of June through August. The variety grows best in irrigated terraces and at an elevation of 700 meters above sea level. It requires 6 – 8 hours of sunlight per day for proper growth. The plant is tall in height (130 – 150 cm), cold tolerant, drought resistant, relatively non-shattering and aromatic. It produces about 130 grains of rice in each compound flower. Like the other native aromatic rice varieties, birds are attracted to the plant in the field, and planting should be synchronized with other aromatic varieties to minimize losses.  

The story of jeykot sticky rice says that a long time ago, there was a great flood. To avoid the rising waters, a family climbed to the top of Mt. Awidon, where they set up a bonfire. One night, a stranger floated by, riding in an earthen jar covered with cooked rice. They welcomed the stranger and asked where he had come from. He indicated that he had traveled from another mountaintop, using the sticky rice to seal the jar so it would not sink. The stranger gave rice seeds to the family to thank them for their hospitality. Then, the stranger disappeared. The family realized it was Kabunyan, or the Father who created the Universe. They called the rice “jeykot,” meaning “wonderful sticky rice” in reference to this gift from their god.  

Jeykot sticky rice is a traditional, native variety that has never undergone improvement in a formal breeding program or at research institutes. The indigenous women of the area are the primary holders of the traditional knowledge on seed selection and conservation of the best planting seeds. Jeykot sticky rice is used in a wide variety of recipes, both sweet and savory. It is often used in dishes mixed with coconut or coconut milk. It is also used in making rice wine.  

Today it is estimated that there are about 200 acres dedicated to traditional rice production in Lubuagan and Pasil, with just a few hectares dedicated to jeykot. About 15 metric tons have been produced by less than 100 farmers. In 2013, 600 kg of this variety was sold through a cooperative on the local market. It is mainly grown for personal or local consumption, with some rice reserved especially for making rice wine. Today, production of rice in elevated terraces is not considered economically feasible, and younger generations are leaving the area in search of other work, abandoning the terraces of the Cordillera and native varieties like Jeykot. 

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Indigenous community:Kalinga