This rice takes its name from the word “Seeragam” which means “cumin seeds” because of its resemblance to the small, oval seeds of the spice; while “Samba” refers to the season in which the rice is grown, typically from August to January. It is grown for a longer duration than other types of rice, approximately 125-130 days.
Seeraga Samba rice is the most expensive sub-variety and has the smallest grain, about one third the size of a grain of basmati rice. Samba rice has a distinct taste, defined as “starchy”. It is white in colour and aromatic and has extremely fine grains. The grain itself is much harder than other varieties, and when cooked it has a less tender and fluffy texture.
The plant grows to a height of about 90 cm. It only grows in fertile soil without chemical fertilisers. From one generation to the next, the same techniques are handed down, such as the manual removal of weeds carried out by the local women. This variety is increasingly threatened by industrial crops, which are easier to grow as they can be produced using modern machinery.
Samba rice is widely cultivated in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. However, cultivation is limited to the villages of Vellapallam and Keevalur Keevalurtaluks in the Nagapattinam district; Uppiliyapuram in the Tiruchirappalli district; and part of the Thanjavur district in central Tamil Nadu. It is aromatic, small and easily digestible, and for these reasons this rice has gained immense popularity in households and the hospitality industry for its distinct properties and characteristics. So much so that there is work being done to create a protected geographic denomination for this rice, which would be the first variety of rice in Tamil Nadu to obtain public protection.
This variety is often used for Biriyani, a traditional Indian dish of rice, spices, vegetables, eggs and meat or fish.