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Richvale Red Rice

Intro to Rice Blog: Wehani 

Harlan Lundberg, one of the four founders of Lundberg Family Farms, was passionate about making brown rice eating as fun and interesting as possible. He dedicated his time to the development of many novel gourmet rice varieties; one of Harlan’s first successes was the stunning russet-colored Wehani rice. Emma Lundberg reports.

Four Lundberg brothers in a field of Wehani

Above: Wendell, Eldon, Harlan and Homer, the founding brothers of Lundberg Family Farms, standing out in a field of Lundberg red rice.

A Great Man’s Legacy

Like Wehani rice, my great-uncle Harlan is memorable because of his unforgettably bold character. Harlan was a jovial, altruistic man. He left the world better than he found it, as demonstrated by his travels with the Peace Corps and other service organizations in North America, Africa, South America and Europe. His deep sense of care for people everywhere influenced his lifelong commitment to consumers. 

Harlan believed that eating wholesome food could improve a person’s quality of life. In the 1989 issue of Lundberg’s Rice Paper, Harlan wrote enthusiastically about farming rice: “Our feeling is that we look to no single variety of rice or any other crop to suit all people. We think that the more variety people have available, the more interesting their lives will be.” Harlan’s passion for rice and people motivated him to work long hours at the family farm in pursuit of developing new and fun varieties of whole grain rice. 

The Descendants 

Harlan approached the challenges of cultivating red rice in the hot California climate with zeal. Lundberg’s Wehani rice is a descendant of Basmati rice, a type of rice native to India that is known for its long grain and delectable buttery fragrance. Back in the 1970s some people believed that derivatives of Indian Basmati rice would never grow properly in California, but Harlan kept his chin up and continued cultivating his special red rice. After 10 years of hard work, Wehani was finally released in 1979 at food co-ops and grocery stores across America. Today, Wehani is one of Lundberg Family Farms’ most prized original varieties and it is grown exclusively at the farm in Richvale, California.

Grant in Rice Field

Above: My dad, Grant Lundberg, at 21 years old standing in a field of red rice (c. 1984). Below: My grandpa, Eldon Lundberg, in a field of red rice—can you see the family resemblance?

Eldon in wehani field

The Allure of Wehani

During the growing season, Wehani’s delicious popcorn smell entices all kinds of gorgeous birds to relax, eat insects and just hang out in the fields. My grandpa, Eldon Lundberg, used to drive me and Ansel, my younger brother, out to a Wehani field for bird-watching sessions. During hot summer evenings, we’d watch majestic great white egrets and emerald-green Mallard ducks swim among rust-red stalks. The languid calls of songbirds wavered above the humid rice fields, and amid the great stillness of the setting sun, the Wehani rice rustled in the calm breeze. 

Wehani red rice

Above: Wehani rice is beautiful, don’t you think?

Demystifying Wehani 

Wehani’s elegant aroma adds to its visual enticement, but like most beautiful things, Wehani rice can be intimidating when viewed up-close and personal; therefore, it’s time to debunk some common myths and confusions about Wehani rice: whether it is brown or red rice, what Wehani means, and how to cook Wehani.

Myth #1: Brown Rice? Red Rice?

Wehani rice is described as both brown rice and red rice. This double description is due to its qualities of being both a kind of whole grain brown rice and a red-colored rice. All whole grain rice, including Wehani rice, is considered brown rice because it still has the whole-grain bran layer after milling. The term red rice comes from Wehani’s unique red bran layer, which gives the rice grain its distinct auburn color.

Myth #2: The Origin of “Wehani”

The term Wehani is exotic and intriguing and adequately alludes to the red rice’s unusual qualities. However, the origin of the word “Wehani” isn’t so foreign. Wehani derives from the acronym WEHAH which stands for “Wendell, Eldon, Harlan and Homer”—the four brothers who founded Lundberg Family Farms. 

Cooking with Wehani

To properly cook Wehani rice, first add 2 ¼ cups of water for every 1 cup of rice; Cover with tight fitting lid, reduce heat to a low simmer and let cook for 50-55 minutes; Remove from heat with lid on and let steam for 10 minutes; Fluff with fork. After cooking, Wehani rice should have a slightly chewy texture and the integrity of the color should be preserved. If you prefer your Wehani slightly softer, try adding a little more water (1/4 cup more to the previous 2 ¼ cups for each cup of rice). Wehani’s chewy texture makes it great in summertime salads. Last weekend, I made the Mediterranean Wehani Salad for a potluck, and its exciting flavors and colors definitely impressed my friends.

Wehani salad produce
Above: Fresh produce, cheese and herbs for the Wehani Mediterranean salad. Yum! 

Below: The final result, a beautiful summertime rice salad.

wehani rice salad on plate


Recipes, Contact Info & Products

Check out our website’s recipe archive to read more recipes featuring Wehani. You can also find nutritional information about Wehani on our product page. You can share your thoughts, questions or favorite recipes by sending an email to info@lundberg.com, subject “Intro to Rice”. If you’re having trouble seeking out a specific variety of rice, you can find all of our rice products online at our website store


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