Do you love rice and want to know more about it? Well, here are some fun facts about rice that will keep you digging for more.
I remember when we cooked spaghetti for dinner. It was fantastic! However, I ended up unsatisfied and was looking for something. Later, I figured it out — I need a rice meal.
Yes, I can’t stand a no-rice lunch or dinner and I know I’m not alone.
Rice, a staple food of the Asians, is also a big industry. It’s actually not known to many what countries are the top producers and who are the largest consumers. Well, this is the point of this article.
So, here are some fun facts about rice:
When we were kids, we used to play with the seeds of the Indian goosegrass using them like rice. Well, we are close because the rice plant is from the family Gramineae or in layman’s term “Grass Family.”
Rice plants have hair-like roots that are designed to anchor well in muddy soil. Inside the soil they spread forming an umbrella.
Each rice plant has a primary stem called a tiller. From it, secondary tillers grow, thus, forming a dense clump.
The usual leaves of a rice plant are long and ribbon-like with obvious veins that are seen in most grasses. They spout from the nodes that cling to the stems. The bottom part of the leaves called sheats.
The flowers are composed of male and female reproductive organs, making rice as self-fertile. The pollination process occurs inside the same flower.
The grain or paddy is composed of three main parts. First is the rice envelope or the husk, endosperm (also includes bran or protective layer after the husk), and embryo. The endosperm and embryo are the white edible part.
Rice is Super Old
Based on artifacts, rice is one of the oldest cultivated crops. Recent studies showed that all rice in Asia are genetically similar to a single domesticated event that occurred 8,200 to 13,500 years ago.
Archaeological evidence showed that the Chinese are the first to plant rice species along the Yangtze and Huai River some 8,000 years ago. Cultivation of rice spread down these rivers for over 2,000 years.
There is no concrete proof of how rice cultivation spread across the globe.
China is the Best Exporter… and Eater!
According to the Statista.com, China is the leading exporter of rice in the crop year 2018/2019. The country produced some 148.5 million metric tons of milled rice.
India, Indonesia, and Bangladesh followed. The countries 116.42, 36.7, and 34.91 million metric tons of milled rice respectively after the 2018/2019 crop year. Surprisingly, in the same year, the Philippines ranked 6th with 14.400 metric tons of milled rice.
In a sudden turn of events, Chinese are also the biggest consumers of rice with 143 million metric tons of rice consumed in the crop year 2018/2019. Just imagine how much rice the Chinese farmers are producing?
The western and African nations showed a noticeable increase in rice consumption over the past years.
Rice as Currency
Rice is one of the most important commodities in the early civilizations to the point that it was used as a form of currency.
From the 11th century to the middle of the 12th, rice is in high level of importance. It was considered as a criterion to evaluate the monetary value of various goods. The government then issued payment orders from rice warehouses and such documents played an important role in the modern payment methods.
A large quantity of Chinese copper began emerging in Japan during the 12th century that started the circulation of coins. However, the government suspended the issuance of coins until the 16th century and started to circulate privately-minted coins that resulted in confusion. Then, rice, gold, and silver were used as a form of payment.
There are also some artifacts showing rice as a form of Burma and Egypt.
Rice and Slavery
Since the demand for rice is extremely high, cultivation of it needs manpower. During the earliest times, wealthy people bought slaves and forced them to rice plantations.
Researchers from the Wageningen University High Performance Computing Cluster traced the type of rice grown in Suriname and found out that they are similar to the Ivory Coast. It showed the earliest slavery featuring rice.
“This evidence is an incentive to re-examine historical sources to trace the way African rice ended up in the New World and why it was cultivated by enslaved Africans and their descendants,” said Tinde Van Andel, the lead author of the study.
Rice Length and Color
There are three known lengths of rice – long grain, medium grain, and short grain. The amount of water needed when cooking them sometimes depends on the length — the longer the grains, the more water should be added.
Rice is naturally brown after harvest. However, when the outer layer of the bran is removed, the color is exposed. The known colors of rice are white or polished, red, black, and purple.
Is Rice Nutritious?
Rice is healthy because of its bran, which is packed with nutrients. However, to prolong shelf life, improve taste, and texture, the bran is removed, leaving us with the carbohydrate-rich endosperm.
Assuming that the bran is still intact, rice is rich in protein, manganese, Thiamine, selenium, and niacin.
Rice is one culprit to weight gain because of its carb. Remember anything that is taken in huge amounts is bad.
Let’s Get drunk
In Asia, there is an alcoholic beverage that is made from rice. Well, obviously, it’s called rice wine. This is made by converting the rice starch into sugar by using an agent and then later will ferment into alcohol.
In Japan, specifically, it is called sake and usually served hot.
Meanwhile, in the Philippines, the process of producing it differs from one place to another. The Manobo tribe from Bukidnon makes it by fermenting rice paste using yeast while people from Banaue and Mountain Province make this for special occasions like rice harvesting ceremonies.
Gates Welcome Rice
Billionaire Bill Gates loves rice. In fact, his foundation, Bill & Milinda Gates Foundation has been spending a huge amount of money on rice research and has partnered with different associations around the world to study rice and thus, having higher yields.
In April 2015, Gates was Los Baños, Laguna, where he visited the headquarters of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), probably to check rice species for the ongoing sustainability research of the said crop.
- April 19th is National Rice Ball Day.
- September is National Rice Month.
- There are more than 40,000 varieties of cultivated rice.
- Rice can grow everywhere as long as there is an ample supply of water. However, it won’t yield that much grain if it’s planted in low-nutrients soil.
- Rice has been found in medieval Chinese walls. They were added for strength and stability.
- The Banaue Rice Terraces is a 2,000-year-old rice farm that was carved into the mountains of Ifugao by the ancestors of the locals. It is dubbed as the “Eight Wonder of the Ancient World.”
- In wedding tradition, while the newly-weds are walking out the church, rice is thrown in their heads to wish them prosperity and fertility.
- Rice is associated with ancient gods.