Rice has fed more people over a longer period of time than any other crop. Rice cultivation has been documented as far back as 2800 B.C. Beginning in China, its cultivation spread throughout Sri Lanka and India. It then passed on to Greece and areas of the Mediterranean. Rice traveled to the New World from Europe. The history of rice in North America began with its colonization. Sir William Berkeley of Virginia first grew rice on a large scale in 1647. It was then successfully introduced into the Carolinas. By the time America gained its independence, rice was one of the country’s major agricultural businesses. The Civil War destroyed most of the farms in the east. Rice production then moved westward. At the turn of the 20th century, rice was well established in what are today’s major Southern rice growing states – Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas. In these states, there is a very special combination of climate and terrain that is necessary to produce the high quality rice for which the U.S. is known. In 1849, the discovery of gold in California brought people of all nations to this U.S. Territory. To feed the many Chinese immigrants whose staple food was rice, California also started its own rice production. In Louisiana, rice was first introduced in 1718 by French explorers. It wasn’t until the 1800s with the coming of the railroad and discoveries made by Dr. Seaman A. Knapp that rice production took off in the state. Settlers moved in, bought land, and put it into rice production. Technological advances in farm machinery and irrigation pumps made rice farming profitable. By the 1900s, Louisiana produced more than half the rice in the United States.
First, rice farmers prepare their soil for planting. Special equipment is used to shift the soil and level and smooth the field. Small levees maintain water on the flooded fields at a uniform depth. Fields are slightly sloped to allow the fields to be drained when needed. Either grain drills or airplanes plant rice in the early spring. Grain drills plant the seed rice directly into the soil at a constant rate and depth. Aerial seeding means planes drop seeds over flooded or dry fields. A good supply of fresh water is extremely important to rice farming. Rice land is covered with two to three inches of water during most of the growing season to inhibit weed growth. Depending on the variety, rice grows to maturity anywhere from 100 to 180 days after planting. Once the rice is fully mature, the water is drained from the field and combines harvest the rice. This “rough rice” is transported by truck to a rice dryer. Rice dryers are used to remove the moisture from the grain for storage. Once dry, the rice may be safely stored. When rice is harvested, it has a non-edible hull surrounding the kernel.
The rough rice that is harvested from the field is the main product. This rough rice undergoes a milling process to remove the hull. Once the hull is removed, the kernels may be processed into many forms. Brown rice has only the hull removed. It still has the bran layers on it. The bran layers are rich in minerals and vitamins. Parboiled rice is rice that has been soaked, steamed, and dried before milling. Consumers who desire fluffy, separate cooked rice favor parboiled rice. Pre-cooked rice is rice that has been cooked and dehydrated after milling. This reduces the cooking time. Regular-milled white rice has gone through the entire milling process. The hulls, bran layers, and germ have all been removed and the rice is sorted according to size.
There are many secondary products we get from rice. Rice hulls are used in the manufacture of many products such as soaps, face washes, hair products, and some synthetic materials. Rice oil is extracted from the rice bran and is very high quality cooking oil that is cholesterol free. Rice polish, which is produced in the final stages of the milling process, is in high demand as a livestock feed. Rice flour is milled rice that is ground in flour. This flour is used for baking. Brewers rice is the smallest size of broken rice fragments. It is used to make pet foods, and as a carbohydrate source in brewing. Rice bran is rich in protein and natural B vitamins and is used as cattle feed and in the manufacture of vitamin concentrates. Some cultures even use parts of the plant to make decorative or ritual objects.
Rice is important for its nutritional value. It is the most popular grain globally and the primary dietary staple for more than half the world’s population. It is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, an important part of the diet. Rice is also low in calories; a half-cup serving of cooked rice supplies only 82 calories. Rice only contains a trace amount of fat and is cholesterol and sodium free. It is also non-allergenic and gluten-free, making it an excellent choice for those on restrictive diets. This tiny but mighty grain supplies energy, complex carbohydrates, protein, fiber, beneficial antioxidants and more than 15 vitamins and minerals.
Hull: Each grain of rice is enclosed in a tough hull
Bran & Germ: High in vitamins, minerals, oil, and various phytonutrients proposed to have health benefits
Starchy endosperm: What remains after the bran and germ are removed—it is the white rice people enjoy throughout the world
**May want to include graphic of rice anatomy. This one is from USA Rice**
Packaging and Transport to point of sale
PREPARATION FOR CONSUMPTION
Washing or rinsing before cooking
Long grain: Long, slender kernel
Medium grain: Short, wide kernel
Short grain: Short, plump, and round kernel
Brown: Outer hull is removed, but it still retains the nutrient-dense bran layers that give it a tan color
White: Outer husk and bran layers are removed
Jasmine: Long grain rice that has a distinctive aroma and flavor
Fermentation - A process where sugars are converted to ethyl alcohol
Levee - An embankment built to prevent the overflow of a river
Parboiling - Partly cook by boiling
Staple food - Food that is regularly consumed and is a dominant portion of a standard diet
Starch - An odorless, tasteless white substance occurring widely in plant tissue and obtained chiefly from cereals and potatoes
Varieties - Different types usually defined by color, length, etc.
Wet milling - A process in which feed material is steeped in water, with or without sulfur dioxide, to soften the grain in order to help separate the various components
American Farm Bureau Foundation