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Rice


Introduction

Rice is a staple food crop in many parts of the world, including India. In fact, about 65% of the people consume rice as part of their diet in India. India is the second largest producer of rice after China, accounting for about 90 million tons of production in the world. Rice is cultivated during both winter and summer, with over 4000 varieties of rice being grown every year. In countries where agriculture is the main occupation, the cultivation of rice is seen as the principal activity and a major source of income

Definition of Rice
Rice is defined as a cereal grain belonging to the grass family of 'Poaceae'. Rice belongs to two species of Poaceae crop, namely, 'Oryza Sativa' and 'Oryza Glaberrima'.

The rice plant grows at a rate of 2-6 feet, and has long, pointed and flat leaves. It has stalk bearing flowers from which the the rice grains are produced. The rice plant needs both warmth and moisture for its proper growth. Rice is typically grown as an annual plant, although in some tropical regions, it is also grown as a perennial plant. It is considered to be one of the few crops that is non-glutenous and non-allergic.  

Traditionally, rice was cultivated by irrigating the field with adequate amounts of water after sowing the seedlings. In this manner, it reduces the growth of weeds but the process should be implemented very carefully, with proper servicing of the water damming and channeling.

 

History of Rice
Rice is one of the oldest known crops to have been cultivated by man. The earliest forms of rice were grown in China around 5000 years back. In fact, the rice paddy was first invented by the Chinese farmers. The rice paddy was grown in an artificial pond, thereby saving water and also helping in killing the weeds. It is also believed that rice roots were discovered in India in 3000 BC, when some native people discovered the plant and began to experiment with it for their personal use. From China, the production of rice soon spread to the other parts of the world, including India, Greece, Southern Europe and many parts of North Africa. In India, people during the Harappan civilization began to grow rice by around 2500 BC. The Spanish brought rice in the beginning of the 18th century to South America.

 
Types of Rice
The most basic parameter on which rice is can be classified is according to its length. According to this criteria, one can find four types of rice. These are:

  • Long Grain Rice/Basmati Rice: It belongs to the category of 'Indica Rice' or long grained rice. The grain of the rice is long, and is about 5 times longer than its width. The long grain rice narrow, long kernels. The long grain rice is known as a 'rough' or 'paddy' rice at the time of its harvesting. Its grains, when cooked, are light in weight as well as soft in texture. Due to its full-bodied flavor and versatility, the long grain rice is also known as an 'all purpose rice' or 'basmati rice', and is an ideal choice for an every day meal. Basmati rice is mainly cultivated in climates that are warm, like those in India, Pakistan and Thailand. The long grain rice is further classified as 'Long Grain Brown Rice' and 'Long Grain White Rice'
  • Medium Grain Rice: This type of rice has a creamy color and a slightly chewy texture.  The kernels of this kind of rice are shorter and wider as compared to that of long grain rice and also do not always remain fluffy. It is an ideal form to be used in desserts, breads, etc. The grains of the medium grain rice are 2-3 times longer than the width, which is about 5 mm in length.  It can also be further classified as 'Medium Grain Brown Rice' and 'Medium Grain White Rice'
  • Short Grain Rice: Belonging to the 'Japonica' (round grained) category of rice, the grains of this type of rice have short and plump kernels. This rice is identified as having a smooth, creamy texture, ideal for making rice pudding and other sweet dishes involving the use of rice. The length of the grains is 4 mm while its width is around 2.5 mm. It is mainly grown in cold weather areas, such as Japan, Korea and China. This type of rice can also be further classified as 'Short Grain Brown Rice' and 'Short Grain White Rice'.
 
Varieties of Rice
Although there are more than 4000 varieties of rice that are growing every year, the most common varieties of rice that are seen in the market can be described as follows:
  • Brown Rice: It is a variety of rice in which only the hull is removed. Due to the bran layers that are left on the grain, it has a natural tan color. The texture of the brown rice is slightly chewy with a nut like flavor, which is due to the bran present inside the grain. Brown rice takes about 30-45 minutes to cook and is considered to be a very good for health because of its nutritional value, as it contains less of starch as compared to white rice
  • White Rice: White rice is defined as that form of rice whose husk, bran and germ have been removed completely during the milling process. Because the white rice undergoes this process, it is also known as 'polished rice'. The entire husk, bran and germ get removed so that the rice does not get spoiled. In this manner, its storage capacity is increased to a great extent. It has a delicate flavor and contains lots of nutrients like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and iron
  • Parboiled Rice: Parboiled rice is yet another variety of rice which is cooked in a steam pressure before it is milled. The steam pressure process helps in pushing the vitamins and minerals present in the outer coats to shift to the central part of the kernel. The entire process of cooking takes about 20 minutes, and after cooking, the rice becomes firm in texture and also the grains of the parboiled rice do not cling to each other after it has been cooked.
 
Nutritional Aspects of Rice
Rice is very much nutritious and contain loads of nutrients to give energy and vitality to our body. Rice is a rich source of carbohydrates as well as an important source of storing the energy inside the body for its proper growth. Rice is also low on fat, salt and cholesterol, and thus helps in keeping the heart healthy. It is also a rich source of a number of vitamins and minerals like Vitamin D, fiber, niacin, thiamin, iron, etc. Because rice is free of gluten, it makes an excellent for people who are advised to stay off gluten rich diet. It also keeps the bowel healthy as it contains resistant starch, that helps in the growth of beneficial bacteria, when it reaches the bowel in an undigested form.
 
Some Interesting Facts of Rice
Rice, being one of the most preferred forms of food and cultivation, has very interesting facts associated with it. These are:
  • Asia is one of the largest consumers of rice, with more than 90% of rice being consumed by the people of Asia alone
  • To produce 1 kg of irrigated rice, it takes about a whopping 5000 liters of water
  • Farmers in remote ares, where there are no modern plowing machines, have to walk 80 km along with their water buffalo to plow just one hectare of land
  • On an average, an Asian consumer eats about 150 kg of rice per year as compared to a European who consumes only 5 kg of rice in a year
  • In many countries, rice is associated with tradition and customs and is often thrown on newly wed couples as it is supposed to bring good luck and health.