Grain of the Week – Rice

March 20, 2014 at 8:28 AM | Posted in Grain of the Week, rice | Leave a comment
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Grain of the Week – Rice

A mixture of brown, white, and red indica rice, also containing wild rice, Zizania species

A mixture of brown, white, and red indica rice, also containing wild rice, Zizania species

Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa (Asian rice) or Oryza glaberrima (African rice). As a cereal grain, it is the most widely consumed staple food for a large part of the world’s human population, especially in Asia. It is the grain with the second-highest worldwide production, after corn, according to data for 2010.
Since a large portion of maize crops are grown for purposes other than human consumption, rice is the most important grain with regard to human nutrition and caloric intake, providing more than one fifth of the calories consumed worldwide by humans.
Genetic evidence has shown that rice originates from a single domestication 8,200–13,500 years ago in the Pearl River valley region of China. Previously, archaeological evidence had suggested that rice was domesticated in the Yangtze River valley region in China. From East Asia, rice spread to Southeast and South Asia. Rice was introduced to Europe through Western Asia, and to the Americas through European colonization.
There are many varieties of rice and culinary preferences tend to vary regionally. In some areas such as the Far East or Spain, there is a preference for softer and stickier varieties.
Rice is normally grown as an annual plant, although in tropical areas it can survive as a perennial and can produce a ratoon crop for up to 30 years. The rice plant can grow to 1–1.8 m (3.3–5.9 ft) tall, occasionally more depending on the variety and soil fertility. It has long, slender leaves 50–100 cm (20–39 in) long and 2–2.5 cm (0.79–0.98 in) broad. The small wind-pollinated flowers are produced in a branched arching to pendulous inflorescence 30–50 cm (12–20 in) long. The edible seed is a grain (caryopsis) 5–12 mm (0.20–0.47 in) long and 2–3 mm (0.079–0.118 in) thick.


Rice cultivation is well-suited to countries and regions with low labor costs and high rainfall, as it is labor-intensive to cultivate and requires ample water. However, rice can be grown practically anywhere, even on a steep hill or mountain area with the use of water-controlling terrace systems. Although its parent species are native to Asia and certain parts of Africa, centuries of trade and exportation have made it commonplace in many cultures worldwide.
The traditional method for cultivating rice is flooding the fields while, or after, setting the young seedlings. This simple method requires sound planning and servicing of the water damming and channeling, but reduces the growth of less robust weed and pest plants that have no submerged growth state, and deters vermin. While flooding is not mandatory for the cultivation of rice, all other methods of irrigation require higher effort in weed and pest control during growth periods and a different approach for fertilizing the soil.
The name wild rice is usually used for species of the genera Zizania and Porteresia, both wild and domesticated, although the term may also be used for primitive or uncultivated varieties of Oryza.




Oryza sativa with small wind pollinated flowers

Oryza sativa with small wind pollinated flowers

The seeds of the rice plant are first milled using a rice huller to remove the chaff (the outer husks of the grain). At this point in the process, the product is called brown rice. The milling may be continued, removing the bran, i.e., the rest of the husk and the germ, thereby creating white rice. White rice, which keeps longer, lacks some important nutrients; moreover, in a limited diet which does not supplement the rice, brown rice helps to prevent the disease beriberi.
Either by hand or in a rice polisher, white rice may be buffed with glucose or talc powder (often called polished rice, though this term may also refer to white rice in general), parboiled, or processed into flour. White rice may also be enriched by adding nutrients, especially those lost during the milling process. While the cheapest method of enriching involves adding a powdered blend of nutrients that will easily wash off (in the United States, rice which has been so treated requires a label warning against rinsing), more sophisticated methods apply nutrients directly to the grain, coating the grain with a water-insoluble substance which is resistant to washing.
In some countries, a popular form, parboiled rice, is subjected to a steaming or parboiling process while still a brown rice grain. This causes nutrients from the outer husk, especially thiamine, to move into the grain itself. The parboil process causes a gelatinisation of the starch in the grains. The grains become less brittle, and the color of the milled grain changes from white to yellow. The rice is then dried, and can then be milled as usual or used as brown rice. Milled parboiled rice is nutritionally superior to standard milled rice. Parboiled rice has an additional benefit in that it does not stick to the pan during cooking, as happens when cooking regular white rice. This type of rice is eaten in parts of India and countries of West Africa are also accustomed to consuming parboiled rice.
Despite the hypothetical health risks of talc (such as stomach cancer), talc-coated rice remains the norm in some countries due to its attractive shiny appearance, but it has been banned in some, and is no longer widely used in others (such as the United States). Even where talc is not used, glucose, starch, or other coatings may be used to improve the appearance of the grains.
Rice bran, called nuka in Japan, is a valuable commodity in Asia and is used for many daily needs. It is a moist, oily inner layer which is heated to produce oil. It is also used as a pickling bed in making rice bran pickles and takuan.
Raw rice may be ground into flour for many uses, including making many kinds of beverages, such as amazake, horchata, rice milk, and rice wine. Rice flour does not contain gluten, so is suitable for people on a gluten-free diet. Rice may also be made into various types of noodles. Raw, wild, or brown rice may also be consumed by raw-foodist or fruitarians if soaked and sprouted (usually a week to 30 days – gaba rice).
Processed rice seeds must be boiled or steamed before eating. Boiled rice may be further fried in cooking oil or butter (known as fried rice), or beaten in a tub to make mochi.
Rice is a good source of protein and a staple food in many parts of the world, but it is not a complete protein: it does not contain all of the essential amino acids in sufficient amounts for good health, and should be combined with other sources of protein, such as nuts, seeds, beans, fish, or meat.
Rice, like other cereal grains, can be puffed (or popped). This process takes advantage of the grains’ water content and typically involves heating grains in a special chamber. Further puffing is sometimes accomplished by processing puffed pellets in a low-pressure chamber. The ideal gas law means either lowering the local pressure or raising the water temperature results in an increase in volume prior to water evaporation, resulting in a puffy texture. Bulk raw rice density is about 0.9 g/cm³. It decreases to less than one-tenth that when puffed.




The many varieties of rice, for many purposes, are distinguished as long-, medium-, and short-grain rices. The grains of fragrant long-grain rice (high amylose) tend to remain intact after cooking; medium-grain rice (high amylopectin) becomes more sticky. Medium-grain rice is used for sweet dishes, for risotto in Italy and many rice dishes, such as arròs negre, in Spain. Some varieties of long-grain rice are high in amylopectin, these are generally known as Thai Sticky rice, usually steamed. A stickier medium-grain rice is used for sushi; the stickiness lets the rice be moulded into a solid shape. Short-grain rice is often used for rice pudding.

Rice is cooked by boiling or steaming, and absorbs water during cooking. It can be cooked in just as much water as it absorbs (the absorption method), or in a large quantity of water which is drained before serving (the rapid-boil method). Electric rice cookers, popular in Asia and Latin America, simplify the process of cooking rice. Rice (or any other grain) is sometimes quickly fried in oil or fat before boiling (for example saffron rice or risotto); this makes the cooked rice less sticky, and is a cooking style commonly called pilaf by American chefs or biryani (Dam-pukhtak) in India, Pakistan, and Iran.

In Arab cuisine, rice is an ingredient of many soups and dishes with fish, poultry, and other types of meat. It is also used to stuff vegetables or is wrapped in grape leaves (dolma). When combined with milk, sugar, and honey, it is used to make desserts. In some regions, such as Tabaristan, bread is made using rice flour. Medieval Islamic texts spoke of medical uses for the plant.
Rice may also be made into congee (also called rice porridge, fawrclaab, okayu, Xifan, jook, or rice gruel) by adding more water than usual, so that the cooked rice is saturated with water, usually to the point that it disintegrates. Rice porridge is commonly eaten as a breakfast food, and is also a traditional food for the sick.
Rice may be soaked prior to cooking, which saves fuel, decreases cooking time, minimizes exposure to high temperature and thus decreases the stickiness of the rice. For some varieties, soaking improves the texture of the cooked rice by increasing expansion of the grains.
Instant rice differs from parboiled rice in that it is milled, fully cooked and then dried. There is a significant degradation in taste and texture.
A nutritionally superior method of preparing brown rice known as GABA Rice or GBR (germinated brown rice) may be used. This involves soaking washed brown rice for 20 hours in warm water (38 °C or 100 °F) prior to cooking it. This stimulates germination, which activates various enzymes in the rice. By this method, a result of research carried out for the United Nations International Year of Rice, it is possible to obtain a more complete amino acid profile, including GABA.
Rice flour and starch often are used in batters and breadings to increase crispiness.




Rice is the staple food of over half the world’s population. It is the predominant dietary energy source for 17 countries in Asia and the Pacific, 9 countries in North and South America and 8 countries in Africa. Rice provides 20% of the world’s dietary energy supply, while wheat supplies 19% and maize (corn) 5%.
A detailed analysis of nutrient content of rice suggests that the nutrition value of rice varies based on a number of factors. It depends on the strain of rice, that is between white, brown, black, red and purple varieties of rice – each prevalent in different parts of the world. It also depends on nutrient quality of the soil rice is grown in, whether and how the rice is polished or processed, the manner it is enriched, and how it is prepared before consumption.
An illustrative comparison between white and brown rice of protein quality, mineral and vitamin quality, carbohydrate and fat quality suggests that neither is a complete nutrition source. Between the two, there is a significant difference in fiber content and minor differences in other nutrients.
Brilliantly colored rice strains, such as purple rice, derive their color from anthocyanins and tocols. Scientific studies suggest that these color pigments have antioxidant properties that may be useful to human health. In purple rice bran, hydrophilic antioxidants are in greater quantity and have higher free radical scavenging activity than lipophilic antioxidants. Anthocyanins and γ-tocols in purple rice are largely located in the inner portion of purple rice bran.
Comparative nutrition studies on red, black and white varieties of rice suggest that pigments in red and black rice varieties may offer nutritional benefits. Red or black rice consumption was found to reduce or retard the progression of atherosclerotic plaque development, induced by dietary cholesterol, in mammals. White rice consumption offered no similar benefits, and the study claims this to be due to absent antioxidants in red and black varieties of rice.



South Carolina rice plantation

South Carolina rice plantation


In 1694, rice arrived in South Carolina, probably originating from Madagascar.
In the United States, colonial South Carolina and Georgia grew and amassed great wealth from the slave labor obtained from the Senegambia area of West Africa and from coastal Sierra Leone. At the port of Charleston, through which 40% of all American slave imports passed, slaves from this region of Africa brought the highest prices due to their prior knowledge of rice culture, which was put to use on the many rice plantations around Georgetown, Charleston, and Savannah.
From the enslaved Africans, plantation owners learned how to dyke the marshes and periodically flood the fields. At first the rice was laboriously milled by hand using large mortars and pestles made of wood, then winnowed in sweetgrass baskets (the making of which was another skill brought by slaves from Africa). The invention of the rice mill increased profitability of the crop, and the addition of water power for the mills in 1787 by millwright Jonathan Lucas was another step forward.
Rice culture in the southeastern U.S. became less profitable with the loss of slave labor after the American Civil War, and it finally died out just after the turn of the 20th century. Today, people can visit the only remaining rice plantation in South Carolina that still has the original winnowing barn and rice mill from the mid-19th century at the historic Mansfield Plantation in Georgetown, South Carolina. The predominant strain of rice in the Carolinas was from Africa and was known as “Carolina Gold.” The cultivar has been preserved and there are current attempts to reintroduce it as a commercially grown crop.
In the southern United States, rice has been grown in southern Arkansas, Louisiana, and east Texas since the mid-19th century. Many Cajun farmers grew rice in wet marshes and low lying prairies where they could also farm crayfish when the fields were flooded. In recent years rice production has risen in North America, especially in the Mississippi River Delta areas in the states of Arkansas and Mississippi.
Rice cultivation began in California during the California Gold Rush, when an estimated 40,000 Chinese laborers immigrated to the state and grew small amounts of the grain for their own consumption. However, commercial production began only in 1912 in the town of Richvale in Butte County. By 2006, California produced the second largest rice crop in the United States, after Arkansas, with production concentrated in six counties north of Sacramento. Unlike the Mississippi Delta region, California’s production is dominated by short- and medium-grain japonica varieties, including cultivars developed for the local climate such as Calrose, which makes up as much as 85% of the state’s crop.
References to wild rice in the Americas are to the unrelated Zizania palustris
More than 100 varieties of rice are commercially produced primarily in six states (Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and California) in the U.S. According to estimates for the 2006 crop year, rice production in the U.S. is valued at $1.88 billion, approximately half of which is expected to be exported. The U.S. provides about 12% of world rice trade. The majority of domestic utilization of U.S. rice is direct food use (58%), while 16% is used in each of processed foods and beer. 10% is found in pet food.

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