Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Lotus Foods

We love our producers, suppliers and vendors and we think most of them have some pretty interesting stories behind their products too. We’re sharing some of our favorites here in an ongoing series.

During a trip to China in 1993, Caryl Levine and Ken Lee first tasted steaming bowls of a nutty-tasting black rice called hei mei, grown in the Yunnan province.

They fell so in love with its flavor and texture that they returned home to the San Francisco Bay area and started a home-based business importing Chinese black rice that they trademarked Forbidden Rice® and other rice varieties from around the world. Lotus Foods now imports rices from six countries, including China, Bhutan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Italy and Madagascar.

“Our intent and vision from the beginning was to support sustainable global agriculture by promoting traditional heirloom rice varieties — many of which may otherwise become extinct — while also enabling rice farmers to earn an honorable living,” Caryl explains.

Lotus Foods works with farmers who implement the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) to produce their More Crop Per Drop™ line of rices. SRI includes a specific approach to transplanting and soil maintenance methods (such as keeping soil moist and aerated) to help farmers yield more rice with fewer resources — typically half the water, one-tenth the usual amount of seed and no agrochemicals.

“Not only is rice the staple food of half the people on our planet,” Caryl says. “But how it is grown has a big impact on everybody’s future.”

Which Lotus Foods rices have you tried and what did you serve with them?