Developing, promoting ‘adlai’ as alternative staple food
Filipinos may go crazy if rice suddenly becomes unavailable, but they might not go hungry as the country is blessed with many alternatives for staple food.
Of course, there is corn and root crops like the many varieties of camote (sweet potato). But there is also adlai, a grain-producing perennial plant that is native to Southeast Asia.
The plant is known as Job’s tears in the United States, and also called coixseed, tear grass. Some Catholics may recognize the grain as these are used in making rosaries or prayer beads.
Grown and consumed mainly in provinces like Zamboanga del Sur, Isabela, Batangas, Romblon and the Bicol region, adlai is also known to Filipinos as an herbal supplement used to address inflammation, allergies and even diabetes.
But the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), which has a research and development program for adlai which is now on its fifth year, is pushing the commercialization of the grain as food.
BAR director Nicomedes P. Eleazar says the agency is pushing for the strengthening of adlai product development initiatives, value-adding activities and other promotional undertakings.
“(We continue the work) to further intensify the development and promotion of adlai projects, activities, and technologies to help ignite the passion of our farmers in planting adlai, not only for economic reasons but health causes as well,” Eleazar says.
BAR has been coordinating 49 adlay projects implemented through the Department of Agriculture’s regional field offices, state universities and colleges, and Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization, and with the Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura.
Across the regions, various adlay products have been developed and are now available to be tapped by the private sector for the mainstream market.
Among these products are the adsoy, gourmix, champorado, 3-in-1 coffee, nutrimeal, herbal coffee mix, breakfast cereal, wine, adlai pop, cracker, cereal bar, and polvoron.
Since 2010, the DA has been promoting adlay as a staple food under its food security blueprint called the Food Staples Sufficiency Program.
Based on adaptability trials in strategic locations nationwide, the following adlay varieties were identified: the commonly grown gulian, kinampay (ginampay) and pulot (or tapol), as well as the linay, mataslai, agle gestakyan, NOMIARC dwarf, jalayhay, and ag-gey.
Mature adlai grains can be processed, cooked and served steamed just like rice—and as versatile as well. It has a pleasant mild flavor making it a good ingredient in soups and broths.
Also, the adlai grain can be ground into flour and used to make breads, pastas and porridge.
Ground grains can also be roasted and turned into coffee or tea and further processed and fermented into wine.
In the meantime, at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), researchers are exploring the feasibility and consumer acceptability of adlai mixed with rice or rice-adlai blend.
“We chose adlai owing to its very similar characteristics with rice,” PhilRice researcher Henry Mamucod said. “True enough, our sensory evaluation showed that rice eaters find rice-adlai blend acceptable.”
Results showed ginampay as the most acceptable variety. Blending it with rice at 50:50 ratio increased the protein composition and the healthy fat content of the blend.
While adlai naturally contains lower amount of carbohydrates, the 50:50 ratio of rice-ginampay provided the same amount of energy with that of pure rice. For better aroma, gloss, tenderness, smoothness, and taste without off-odor, PhilRice recommends the rice variety NSIC Rc160 for blending with ginampay.
“Combined with NSIC Rc160, ginampay provided the consumer the same eating satisfaction as pure white rice, Mamucod says. “Aside from being an excellent source of carbohydrates, the blend also provides higher nutritional value.”