(POSTED: November 12, 2006)
History of Rice
Rice is a grain belonging to the grass family. The plant, which needs both warmth and moisture to grow, measures 2-6 feet tall and has long, flat, pointy leaves and stalk-bearing flowers which produce the grain known as rice. Rice is consumed by nearly one-half the entire world population and many countries, like Asia, are completely dependent on rice as a staple food. Rice is one of the few foods in the world which is entirely non-allergenic and gluten-free.
There are many unproven mythological tales as to how rice came to be, though historians hold little or no stock in any. Most believe the roots of rice come from 3000 BC India, where natives discovered the plant growing in the wild and began to experiment with it. Cultivation and cooking methods are thought to have spread to the west rapidly and by medieval times, southern Europe saw the introduction of rice as a hearty grain.
The first cultivators of rice in America did so by accident after a storm damaged ship docked in the Charleston South Carolina harbor. The captain of the ship handed over a small bag of rice to a local planter as a gift, and by 1726, Charleston was exporting more than 4,000 tons of rice a year.
HOW RICE IS GROWN
African and Asian types of rice are grown in two ways depending on the location and climate where it was planted. There are two types of growing rice in certain parts of the country.One of it is called lowland rice. This requires rice being grown in flooded plains called paddies so its roots could be able to make use of the nutrient content from the water it was planted in. Paddy rice farmers usually plant the seeds first in little seedbeds and transfer them into flooded fields which were already plowed. Other highly-developed countries plant the seeds using a drill in fields already levelled mechanically. Afterwards,it is flooded either by rainwater or by irrigation.
In places where there is no enough amount of moisture to nurture the crops,upland rice is used. Rice is planted on soil and its roots only extract nutrients depending on the nutrient content of the soil. This method produces less rice varieties since only a few amount of nutrients are available for the roots of the rice to extract when compared to paddy rice,where enough amounts of nutients are extracted. One country like Laos depends on this process.
In both types of methods, rice could readily be harvested in about 3 to 6 months. For countries not highly-developed,the farmers just harvest the rice using a knife, gather and tie them in bundles and leave them in the field for drying. A process called threshing follows where animals walk over the rice to take out its grain. Industrialized countries process rice using machines called combines. It then harvests the rice,remove and then cleans its grain. The grains are then dried in places where high temperatures exist.
After procesing,removal of the grain's hull follows. This exposes the bran and brown rice is produced. If the bran is taken away,white rice is produced. Brown rice is more nutritious than white rice. Polished rice is produced by processing the kernels through a machine where they are polished finely by brushes.
Today, rice is grown and harvested on every continent except Antarctica, where conditions make its growth impossible. The majority of all rice produced comes from India, China, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, and Bangladesh. Asian farmers still account for 92-percent of the world's total rice production. More than 550 million tons of rice is produced annually around the globe. In the United States, farmers have been successfully harvesting rice for more than 300 years.There are thousands of strains of rice today, including those grown in the wild and those which are cultivated as a crop.
The rice seeds we are able to buy are known as "rough" to rice farmers. At one time, the rough was enclosed by a hull or husk. During the process of milling, the hull and various bran layers of kernel are removed, and the rice is polished, giving the resulting seed a bright, white, shiny coating.
There are many different varieties, strains, and grains of rice, including:
Also known as "paddy" rice, rough rice are kernels that have not been dehulled. Rough rice is sometimes shipped to mills, where the outer husk is removed before the grains are packaged.
White rice is by far the most common of all types, consumed in all countries of the world. White rice is dehulled, has all bran and germ layers removed, and is often enriched, giving it more nutritional value than it holds on its own.
AMERICAN WILD RICE
Wild rice is a coarse grass (and not really a true rice) considered a delicacy in many parts of the world. North American Indians are attributed with the introduction of wild rice into mainstream society. Grown in shallow waters, like marshes, man-made paddies, and stream beds in North America, the wild rice plant is 3-10 feet tall, holding the traditional rice flower at its peak. American wild rice is medium to long grained and has a nutty flavor.
Because the outer coating of brown rice contains added minerals and protein, brown rice is considered to hold greater food value than its white grain counterpart. Brown rice does not get milled, thereby keeping its darker color. Like white rice, brown rice has its husks removed during the cultivation process. Brown rice contains 8-percent protein and is a good source of thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, iron and calcium. Traditionally, brown rice is the least favorite of all the rices.
WHY CENTRAL AMERICAN RICE IS SPECIAL
Rice is a dietary staple in Central America and used in a variety of ways. Commonly served for breakfast, lunch and dinner, its popularity among the non-native populations living inside and outside of Central America is rising due to the unique characteristics of this rice cultivated in the Americas.
In general, Central American rice is of the long-grain variety and high in a starch component known as amylose. Because of this, Central American rice retains a smooth texture and will not produce a "sticky glob" when cooked unless too much water is added when cooking the rice -- Central American long-grain rice should be cooked in no more than one inch of water. This differs from the Asian short and medium-grain rice varieties which, although popular to use, tend to clump regardless of the cooking method used.
Another reason why Central American rice is so popular is because it lasts a long time once it has been cooked. For example, a popular dish in Central America is "Pinto". This dish includes a combination of cooked long-grain rice and black or red pinto beans mixed together with salsa and seasonings. Served as a side dish any time of the day, it is said that Pinto is best when it has been reheated several times. Central American rice can withstand this type of cooking reuse and still retains its shape and original flavor.
The quality of Central American rice is also defined by the amount of broken raw rice kernels included in a bag when the bag is purchased at a store. For example, rice that is labeled 98% indicates that 2% of the rice kernels contained within are broken. Meanwhile, a bag labeled 80% indicates a breakage amount of 20%. Therefore, if a rice dish requires only top quality ingredients, it is recommended to use rice labeled 96% or 98%. If a lesser quality rice is acceptable in a recipe, use rice that is labeled between 80-90%.
Another factor that distinguishes Central American rice from other types of rice is how it is often prepared. Some common cooking methods include frying then boiling the rice or, placing the rice directly into a rice cooker. Because of the various methods used to cook Central American rice, it is a flexible rice that can be used a multitude of ways. This combined with its ability to last a long time once it has been cooked ensures Central American rice a place within many international kitchens.
Many countries produce a variety of rice grain , including:
LONG: Long slender kernels which produce light, fluffy rice.
MEDIUM: Short, wide kernels which are moist and tender when cooked.
SHORT: Short, round kernels which are soft and cling together when boiled.
ARBORIO: Large tan grains with white dots in the center, similar in side to medium grain white rice. Arborio is most often used in risotto because of its creamy, chewy texture.
AROMATIC: Medium sized slender grains which often have the aroma and flavor of roasted nuts or popcorn.
WAXY: Also known as "sweet" rice, kernels are short and plump, and produce a thick, starchy product when cooked. Waxy rice is most often used as a binder for gravy, sauces or fillings.
Rice remains a staple food for the majority of the world's population. More than two-thirds of the world rely on the nutritional benefits of rice. Rice is naturally fat, cholesterol and sodium free. It is a complex carbohydrate containing only 103 calories per one-half-cup serving.
TIPS AND TRICKS
ALWAYS measure rice and water and cook according to timed instructions for perfect, non-sticky rice.
COOK rice with a lid on to prevent steam from escaping.
RICE always triples in volume, so be sure to take this into account when choosing an appropriate cooking pot.
WHEN rice is done cooking, fluff with a fork to avoid sticky or hard rice kernels.
IF YOU like non-sticky rice, saute in a small amount of butter before cooking. Add liquid to saute pan and cook per instructions.
SAKE is liquor made from rice.
RICE PAPER is not actually made from rice at all. It evolves from the pith of the rice paper tree grown in Asia.
RICE GLUE is still made in many countries by boiling ground rice.
CLOTHING, including shoes and hats, are made from rice straw in many rice-producing areas of the world.
WHITE rice can be kept indefinitely in a cool, dry area.