Photo: cbcastro, flickr
Jasmine rice is soft, fragrant and – much to the consternation of U.S. rice growers – impossible to grow in the nation's rice-producing regions.
"Maybe you could grow it in South Florida or South Texas," theorizes Steve Linscombe, senior rice breeder and director of Louisiana State University's rice research station. "But even if you could, the yield potential is very low."
Linscombe's spent the better part of two decades developing a homegrown alternative to the phenomenally popular Thai strain of jasmine rice. After a successful test run in 2009, farmers are planning to plant thousands of acres of Jazzman rice this season.
"We think we're going to get this rice exposed to a lot of new customers," Linscombe says. "I've been using it personally for three years. We cook jambalaya, gumbo, rice and gravy with it."
Jasmine rice got hot in the 1970s, Lipscombe says.
"At the end of the Vietnam War, we had a pretty substantial influx of immigrants, and this is their preferred type of rice," he explains. "Then other people started buying it and really liked it."
Trying to replicate the distinct aroma of jasmine rice was one of the toughest challenges Linscombe's team faced.
"The aroma is difficult," Linscombe says. "One thing we're not claiming is that this is as aromatic as imported rice, but we think it's pretty close."