Heirloom Kokuho Rose® brand Japanese Style Rice is NOT Generic, Commodity-grade Calrose
Confusion exists regarding the differences between the multiple brands of rice that include the word “Rose.” Less savvy consumers may mistakenly think Calrose is the same kind of rice as Kokuho Rose®.
After World War II, Cal Pearl, a short grain Japanese type rice, was the predominant variety grown in California. Two plant breeders, Hughes Williams and Jenkin Jones, co-developed Calrose, a medium grain Japanese type rice, from the Cal Pearl variety. In the 1950s, the Koda family hired Hughes Williams to work as a plant breeder. Mr. Williams brought Calrose seed to South Dos Palos and conducted extensive crossbreeding for varietal improvement. His most promising cross with a Middle Eastern variety tasted much better than Calrose and possessed other desirable traits. Field yields and milling quality were high for that era. In the ensuing years, this strain, known as KR55, was further perfected for the South Dos Palos micro-climate through selection and development for varietal uniformity.
In the industry, “Calrose” is a coined phrase for the predominant high yielding, bland tasting medium grain variety. The original Calrose was further developed (at the State rice research center in Biggs, CA.) primarily for higher yield. Taste and quality were and are secondary considerations. Many descendents have been packaged as “Calrose” since its initial introduction. The most common variety packaged today is M201. While KR55 and Calrose do share a common ancestor, saying that KR55, aka Kokuho Rose®, is a Calrose variety is like saying that a thoroughbred race horse and a donkey are the same thing. NOT.
KR55 has been used in California rice breeding programs since the early 1960s. (Upon the successful commercial introduction of KR55 under their trademark, Kokuho Rose® brand, the Koda family shared their seed with all the major rice breeding programs in California.) Today, any medium grain Japanese type rice grown in California that calls itself “premium” has the KR55 strain in its lineage. For example, the variety M401, is a KR55 descendent packaged as Nishiki brand produced by JFC and likewise, Tamaki’s Medium Grain Sushi Rice.
Note: In plant breeding, it is said that if a person develops one successful variety, then his career is a huge success. KR55 is now approximately fifty-five years old. The most highly regarded variety in Japan, Koshihikari (short grain) is about fifty-five years old. The other significant Japanese short grain variety, Akita Komachi (about thirty-five years old), is an early maturing but lesser quality version of Koshihikari.