What Is Rice
Edited by Allysha, Jen Moreau, Sharingknowledge
Many people eat rice -- it is a common, worldwide food -- but how much do you know about this source of food? It has two Latin names: Oryza sativa for Asian rice and Oryza glaberrima for African rice. Rice are the seeds of swamp grass and are considered to be grain food.
Let us take a closer look at this everyday food by exploring the following: its appearance; its different sizes and forms; how it is grown, harvested and milled; its history; and some health advantages.
Appearance of Rice
A grain of rice is a long, thin seed. Its outermost layer, or "shell" is called the hull. Following this layer is one called the bran, and within the hull and bran coatings is the endosperm (or white rice). The pointed end of the rice grain is referred to as the awn. On the other side (the more rounded end) and inside the endosperm is the germ (or embryo).
Sizes and Forms of Rice
Rice comes in multiple sizes and forms. A very common type of rice is long-grain white rice.
Sizes of Rice
The size of rice refers to the length of the rice grain.
- 1Short-grain rice appears almost round as its length does not exceed two times its width. This size of rice also contains more starch than medium- or long-grain rice. Additionally, short grain is the stickiest of the three sizes.Short Grain.Advertisement
- 2Medium-grain rice measures around two millimeters long: two or three times its width.Medium Grain.
- 3Long-grain rice's length can be anywhere between seven to nine millimeters: four to five times its width. This size of rice is the driest of the three.Long Grain.
Forms of Rice
The form of rice refers to the appearance of the rice grain -- or how the grain is milled.
- 1White rice is what is left behind after discarding the husk, bran, and germ/embryo. In other words, white rice is the endosperm, which has been polished. Removing three of the four components of a rice grain prolongs its shelf life.White Rice.
- 3Parboiled rice is sometimes called converted rice, and it is partially boiled in order to increase its nutritional value. Partially boiling rice also makes it less gummy (or sticky). To create parboiled rice, rice is soaked, steamed, and dried.Parboiled Rice.
Fun fact: Brown rice needs to be boiled longer than white or parboiled rice -- it can take up to 45 minutes to cook while white and parboiled rice may take around 20.
Growing, Harvesting, and Milling Rice
Rice can can be planted in varies conditions, making it an easy grain to grow, harvest, and, in turn, mill.
Conditions for Rice
Oryza sativa and Oryza glabberima are adaptable species -- they can be grown in areas that are desert-like or in areas that are wetlands; that is, rice can grow in both hot and damp climates. This grain's adaptability allows it to be a food source that flourishes around the world.
Rice is grown in fields that are flooded (as rice comes from swamp grass). Let us look at four stages of growing rice and their corresponding seasons.
- 1During the last days of winter and the early days of spring, the fields are prepared. This is done by creating levees, tilling, and leveling.Late Winter, Early Spring.
- Creating Levees. Levees are embankments of soil, and while they do occur naturally, they can also be human-made (as they often are for rice fields). Levees may be formed through the use of a tractor. You can think of levees as walls that contain the water within the field.
- Tilling. To prepare the soil for seeds, the land is tilled. Tilling makes the soil more nutritious and helps fight weeds by stirring the soil and recycling old plants.
- Leveling. Leveling the land ensures that there will be no deep pockets of water and no soil "hills" poking out of the water, which then helps evenly distribute the water across the field. A flat surface also assists the prevention of weeds and encourages seed growth.
- 2After the fields are prepared, the seeds will be planted. This can be done on the ground (by hand or machine) or in the air (by airplane). The field is submerged in water as soon as the rice plant sprouts.Spring.
- 3Throughout the summer, the rice grows. Rice will grow for somewhere between 100 and 150 days.Summer.
- 4The rice is harvested.Midsummer, Early Fall.
After the rice plants reach full maturity, they are harvested and later milled. During harvesting, the rice crop is cut, dried, stacked, threshed (which is stripping the rice grain from the plant), and cleaned. There are two ways to harvest rice: manually and mechanically.
- 1Manually harvesting rice involves harvesting rice crop with sickles and knives. This style of cutting rice crop is frequently used in Asia.Manual.
- 2Mechanically harvesting rice involves harvesting rice crop with reapers and combines.Mechanical.
Before rice is milled, it is graded and its quality is checked. When rice is graded, it is examined for its size and color as well as for any damage done to it.
Milling rice is removing the husk and any other component depending on if the rice is to be white, brown, or parboiled. If the rice is to be while, the bran and germ will also be removed, and it will be polished. If the rice is to be parboiled, it will undergo soaking, steaming, and drying.
History of Rice
- 8,200 to 13,500 Years Ago. Rice was first harvested in the Pearl River valley, China, at the middle Yangtze and upper Huai rivers. The practice of farmers cultivating rice moved down the two rivers.
- 3,000 Years Ago. Rice was grown in western India and Sri Lanka.
- 2,300 Years Ago. Alexander the Great and company brought rice from India to Greece. From here, it moved throughout Europe and northern Africa.
- 500 Years Ago. Rice was transported to Central and South America.
- 300 Years Ago. Rice was planted in North America.
Health Advantages of Rice
There are many health benefits to eating rice. Here are a few: rice is cholesterol-free, gluten-free, and non-fat food; it has low sodium levels, and it contains carbohydrates. Rice also has a low-calorie count and is a great source of energy. Different types of rice provide different amounts and kinds of nutrients, and because brown rice retains the bran and germ, it has more types and higher levels of nutrition. Additionally, rice helps prevent cancer and Alzheimer's disease (to a degree), and it can be applied topically for skin care.
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Recent edits by: Jen Moreau, Allysha