All About Rice

Introduction

For nearly half the world’s population, rice is life. Rice provides one of the main sources of calories for billions of people. It is a staple, a comfort food, a side dish and a main meal. In fact, rice is so integral to many cultures around the world it is often intermingled with mythologies, gods and goddesses, ceremonies and celebrations. It’s also a highly nutritious component of a healthy diet, if you choose the right source.

According to Marie Simmons in "Rice the Amazing Grain":

Rice is high in complex carbohydrates, contains almost no fat, is cholesterol free, and is low in sodium, unless you add salt to the cooking water. Generally all rice - both brown and white - is considered a good source of vitamins and minerals.... Rice is a fair source of protein containing all eight essential amino acids. It is low in the amino acid lysine, which is found in beans making the classic combination of rice and beans, popularly known as complimentary proteins, a particularly healthful dish. Rice is gluten free and easily digestible making it a good choice for infants and people with wheat allergies or digestive problems.(1)

Whole grain rices – like our ForbiddenRice®, Organic Forbidden Rice®, Bhutanese Red Rice, Madagascar Pink Rice™, Cambodian brown Jasmine Mekong Flower Rice™, Indonesian Volcano Rice™, and Organic Brown Dehraduni Basmati – are linked to lowering the risk for heart disease, certain cancers and type 2 diabetes. They are also a good source of fiber and important vitamins and minerals, as well as sources of phytochemicals with antioxidant properties.

With our unique selection of heirloom and new rice varietals, finding delicious ways to incorporate rice into your diet has never been easier.

Back to top

 

The Good Grain

From Marie Simmons, "Rice the Amazing Grain":

"In both New York and Tokyo I have sat on a mat of woven rice straw called a tatami; drunk beer or sake, both brewed from rice; and have eaten a dish of rice seasoned with rice vinegar and topped with strips of beef raised on a diet of rice bran. In California I have seen rice hulls destined for the local power company where they will be burned to provide energy. I have worn leather shoes made supple with rice oil and a blouse cut from a synthetic fiber made from a rice hull product called furfural. At home I have walked in a flower garden growing in soil fertilized with rice hulls and started the day with spoonfuls of warm cooked rice cereal or a bowl of rice crispies swimming in milk. Rice, a staple food for more than half of the earth's population, is an amazing grain."

Back to top

 

The Science of Rice

Rice is protected by a hull or rough outside layer when it is harvested. The bran layers are under the hull; under the bran is the starchy endosperm, easily recognized by the cook as a grain of white rice. Ninety percent of the calories in rice come from complex carbohydrates or starch. Amylose and amylopectin are the two types of starch found in rice.

- Reprinted with permission by Marie Simmons from "Rice the Amazing Grain"

The different types of starch determine how the rice cooks. Amylose – a long straight starch molecule, does not gelatinize when cooked, so rice with a high amylose content cooks up fluffy, with separate grains.

Rice that is high in amylopectin becomes sticky when cooked. Medium and short grain rices have more amylopectin, so these are used when you want the grains to be sticky. These rices are most often used in Asian cooking, because sticky rice grains are easier to eat with chopsticks!

Back to top

 

How Rice Grows Conventionally

Little rice seedlings are reverently hand planted in a small backyard paddy in Kyoto, Japan. Space age technology computers, lasers and airplanes are used to prepare the soil and sow the rice seeds on mega farms in eastern Texas. Both ways rice will still miraculously emerge from its meadow-like sea, transforming the dark glassy surface of the paddy into a shimmering chartreuse blanket. As the seedlings mature, they draw nutrients from the paddy water. The same water keeps the weed population under control. Eventually small green flowers take shape and the wind pollinates the plants. The paddies of rice change from green to golden yellow to the familiar pale honey color of parched straw.

The levees are opened, the water is drained and the soil is given time to set. In the United States where the rice industry is thoroughly mechanized, a giant combine with an air conditioned cab for the operator, rolls across the field cutting the plants and separating the rough or paddy rice from the straw. The rough rice is transported to enormous dryers where the moisture content is reduced. The rice is now ready for milling. The milling process, although it can be extremely high tech and efficient, is really very simple. Converted or parboiled rice is steam pressure treated before it is hulled. The hull is removed in a sheller which is basically two rubber rollers that remove the hulls by friction. The rice emerges as brown rice. The bran is removed from the brown rice by abrasion as the grains are forced to rub against each other. Broken grains are sorted out as the rice is sifted through a series of screens. In the most sophisticated of mills a laser scanner spots discolored kernels and almost simultaneously manages to blast them aside with a stream of pressurized air.

The rice is now ready for the market.

- Reprinted with permission by Marie Simmons from "Rice the Amazing Grain"

Back to top

 

Rice Facts & History
  • In Burma a person eats 500 pounds of rice a year, an astonishing figure when it is reduced to a daily consumption of 1-1/4 pounds per day, but perhaps not so astonishing when you consider that Burma is smack in the middle of land where rice cultivation most likely originated thousands of years ago.
  • Radiocarbon dating of strata containing grains of rice found in south China indicate rice was cultivated as far back as 7,000 year ago. Researchers claim rice may have been indigenous to India and then moved eastward to Indochina and southeast Asia.
  • There are literally thousands, perhaps as many as 40,000 or more, varieties of rice grown on every continent except Antarctica.
  • In the United States, the average person consumes only twenty-five pounds of rice per year, with about four pounds of that number attributed to the rice used for brewing American beer. But, rice consumption is on the rise. In fact, Americans eat twice as much rice now than they did ten years ago. Marketing analysts attribute this phenomenon to the savvy consumer's awareness of rice as a healthy food. Eating healthfully is certainly a significant part of the picture, but the recent interest in the rice based cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Japan and the wide range of different types - as many as twenty five - now available, have also contributed to this swing toward rice.
  • The UnitedStates has always been more of a rice exporter than a rice consumer. In the early eighteenth century rice grown along the coastal plains of the Carolinas and Georgia was a major export. A labor-intensive crop, many of the wealthiest rice plantations had hundreds of slaves. Familiar with African rice cultivation, the slaves are credited with contributing significantly to the industry before it was destroyed by the Civil War. With the mechanization of agriculture, rice growing moved west to Louisiana. Today enough rice grows in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Missouri to rank the United States as the twelfth largest rice producer worldwide and the second largest exporter of rice (first is Thailand). The United States now exports about half of all the rice it grows.

- Reprinted with permission by Marie Simmons from "Rice the Amazing Grain"

Back to top

 

Folklore
  • The Chinese word for rice is the same as the word for food
  • In Thailand when you call your family to a meal you say, "eat rice."
  • In Japan the word for cooked rice is the same as the word for meal.
  • Most of us have either thrown a handful of rice at newly weds or personally experienced a prickly rice shower. This ancient rice throwing ritual originally symbolized fertility and the blessing of many children; today it symbolizes prosperity and abundance.
  • Rice is the first food a new Indian bride offers her husband, perhaps instead of wedding cake; it is also the first food offered a newborn.
  • In Japan where there is an almost mystical aura surrounding the planting, harvesting and preparation of rice it is believed that soaking rice before cooking releases the life energy and gives the eater a more peaceful soul.
  • To encourage Japanese children to eat all of their rice the grains are affectionately called little Buddhas.
  • In China young girls with finicky appetites are warned that every grain of rice they leave in their rice bowls represents a pock mark on the face of their future husband.
  • In India it is said that the grains of rice should be like two brothers - close, but not stuck together.
  • In China a typical greeting, instead of "How are you?" is "Have you had your rice today?" A greeting to which one is expected to always reply, "Yes."

- Reprinted with permission by Marie Simmons from "Rice the Amazing Grain"

Back to top