Show your team colors with purple rice

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON Five-pound bags of Blanca Isabel Purple Rice sell for $11.99 per bag at Matherne's during a recent demonstration at the Perkins and Bluebonnet location.
Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON Five-pound bags of Blanca Isabel Purple Rice sell for $11.99 per bag at Matherne's during a recent demonstration at the Perkins and Bluebonnet location.

Milton Rush was trying to find a disease-resistant strain of rice. What he got was a deep purple, heretofore unseen in America, long-grain rice.

“This is completely different than anything in the world,” the retired LSU rice researcher said. “It has two main health compounds in blueberry and acai.”

Here’s the science:

Rush developed the Blanca Isabel Purple Rice in 1998 at the rice pathology program in the Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology at LSU by crossing Cypress rice, a main long-grain variety grown in Louisiana, with Hitan Kitan, a purple/black kernel variety from Sri Lanka.

The rice’s purple color extends past the outer bran coating to the kernel, leaving behind shades of lavender, depending on the degree of milling. The purple color comes from anthocyanin compounds, or antioxidants for us civilians.

End science.

The rights to the rice were released to Rush after his retirement from LSU, and he and his family planted their first rows of the new rice last year. His two sons, two daughters and his wife help run his business.

Recently, Rush and company turned out at Matherne’s supermarket at Bluebonnet Boulevard and Perkins Road to hand out samples.

Roxy Soudelier, of Baton Rouge, was impressed by the rice’s color and flavor.

“It’s interesting,” she said. “I’m always looking for something healthier.”

Rush said Nino’s Italian Restaurant, Bellue’s Fine Cajun Cuisine and Chef Don Bergeron Enterprises all use the rice.

Bergeron said that aside from the health benefits of the rice, it also tastes great. He and Rush both said that despite its radically different appearance, Blanca Isabel cooks up like regular white rice.

“It’s very versatile,” Bergeron said. “We’ve used it on most all of our (catering) clientele, and they just love it.”

Bergeron’s signature purple rice dish is Flagship Rice, a play on LSU colors with yellow bell peppers, golden raisins, toasted almonds and the purple rice. Rush also said that the purple rice lends itself perfectly to LSU-themed dishes.

“You can take yellow squash, bell pepper, yellow string beans and get the purple and gold,” he said.

Rush also said they’ve been looking into brewing it into a beer.

“Our nutrients would go into the beer, too,” he said. “Drink beer and get healthy!”