This article is about the food grain; see also rice (disambiguation).
Rice (Oryza sativa) is a plant of the grass family, which feeds more than half of the world's human population. Rice cultivation is well suited to poor countries as it is very labor-intensive, but with plenty of water for irrigation, can be grown practically anywhere, even on steep hillsidessides.
Rice is the world's third largest crop, behind maize and wheat — both of which have significant uses outside of human nutrition.
Rice is often grown in paddies — shallow puddles (typically 15cm depth), carefully controlled to ensure the appropriate water depth. Rice paddies sometimes serve a dual agricultural purpose by also producing edible fish or frogs, a useful source of protein. The farmers take advantage of the rice plant's tolerance to water: the water in the paddies prevents weeds from outgrowing the crop. Once the rice has established dominance of the field, the water can be drained in preparation for harvest. Paddies increase productivity, although rice can also be grown on dry land, including on terraced hillsides, often with the help of chemical weed controls.
In some instances, a deepwater strain of rice, often called floating rice is grown. This can develop elongated stems capable of coping with water depths exceeding 2 meters (6 feet).
Rice paddies are an important habitat for birds such as herons and warblers, and a wide range of amphibians and snakes. They perform a useful function in controlling insect pests.
Whether it is grown in paddies or on dry land, rice requires a great amount of water compared to other food crops, making rice growing a controversial practice in some areas, particularly in the United States and Australia, where rice farmers use 7% of the nation's water to generate just 0.02% of GDP. However, in nations that have the periodical rain season and typhoons, rice paddies serve to keep the water supply steady and prevent flood from reaching a dangerous level.
Preparation as food
The seeds of the rice plant are first milled to remove the outer husks of the grain; this creates brown rice. This process may be continued, removing all of the husk, creating 'white' rice. The white rice may then be buffed with glucose or talc powder, parboiled, or processed into flour. Most inner oily layer called nuka is heated to remove its oil and then used for making pickled vegetables.
The processed rice seeds are usually boiled or steamed to make them edible, after which they may be fried in oil or butter.
History of rice cultivation
Rice was first cultivated in ancient China and India. Rice growing was brought to Japan by the Yayoi. From India rice spread to southern Europe and Africa.
Colonial South Carolina and Georgia grew and amassed great wealth from the slave labor obtained from the Senegambia area of West Africa. At the Port of Charleston, through which 40% of all American slave imports passed, slaves from this region of Africa brought the highest prices, in recognition of their prior knowledge of rice culture, which was put to use on the many rice plantations around Georgetown, Charleston, and Savannah. From the slaves, plantation owners learned how to dike the marshes and periodically flood the fields. At first the rice was milled by hand with wooden paddles, then winnowed in sweetgrass baskets (the making of which was another skill brought by the slaves). 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 southeastern USA 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.
Rice varieties are often classified by their grain shapes. For example, Thai or Siamese Jasmine rice is long-grain and relatively less sticky, as long-grain rice contains less starch than short-grain varieties. Chinese restaurants usually serve long-grain as plain unseasoned steamed rice. Japanese rice and Chinese sticky rice are short-grain. Chinese people use sticky rice to make dumplingss.
Indian rice varieties include long-grained Basmati (grown in the North), medium-grained Patna and short-grained Masoori. One variety, available in the South Indian state of Kerala, is usually referred to in English as boiled rice. This is prepared by boiling it just after harvesting, in huge pans, often over coconut-shell fires, to kill any fungi or other contaminants. It is then dried, and the husk removed later. It often displays small red speckles, and has a smoky flavour from the fires.
Scientists are working on so-called golden rice which is genetically modified to produce beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A. This has generated a great deal of controversy over whether the amount of beta carotene would be significant and whether genetically modified foods are desirable.
Draft genomes for the two commonest rice cultivars, indica and japonica, were published in April 2002.
International Year of Rice
On December 16, 2002, the UN General Assembly declared the year 2004 the International Year of Rice. The declaration was sponsored by
Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cuba, Cyprus, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Ecuador, Fiji, Gabon, Grenada, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Madagascar, Mali, Malaysia, the Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Myanmar, Nauru, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Vietnam, and Zambia.
Rice dishes and beverages
Popular rice dishes include
rice congee (粥);,
Beverages made from rice include sake, horchata, and rice milk.
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