Rice - The Third Largest Agricultural Commodity
I grew up on potatoes, so it never occurred to me that I would ever cultivate a relationship with rice. While I was growing up, I associated rice with Mexican, Chinese, Indian and Japanese food. And I believe that is pretty much where it starts and finishes for many of us.
So what, where, and how is rice produced and used?
Rice is the seed of the grass species Oryza sativa (Asian rice) and Oryza glazberrima (African rice). It is the most consumed staple food by the world's human population, especially in Asia.
Old Chinese legends spoke of agriculture in the Pearl River valley region of Ancient China 8,200 - 13,500 years ago, where rice was grown. Although wild rice may trace its roots back to Australia, starting from South East Asia, rice has traveled all around the world with traders and through European colonisation.
Globally there are 40,000 varieties of rice split into four major categories worldwide: Indica, japonica, aromatic and glutinous. These four categories each have several culinary uses.
The processing of rice begins first with the rice being milled to remove the outer husk of the grain to create the so-called ‘brown rice’. To create white rice one has to continue to mill the rice seeds and remove the rest of the outer part.
Once you have white rice, the next step in the process is called “polishing”, used for beverage or flour production as well as for consumption, raw or cooked.
The outer part of rice, called bran, has found its day-to-day use as an enriching element for bread, in breakfast cereals, for pickling, cooking, and dishwashing. Bran oil has also found its way to beauty treatments, especially in Japanese culture.
As rice is very well known for its culinary uses, we will not talk about them here today. However, as many of us may know, it can also be used for the production of alcoholic beverage as well.
Watch out for the next article about rice used in beverages.