16 Interesting Facts About Rice

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Rice is a versatile and important food crop that feeds almost half of the world’s population. From nourishing rice bowls to forming the basis of beloved dishes like risotto, rice finds its way into cuisines across the globe.

Beyond being a dietary staple, rice also has a rich history and culture behind it. Farming practices, unique varieties, traditional rituals – there’s more to rice than meets the eye.

Here are 16 fascinating facts about this grain:

1. There are over 40,000 varieties of rice

From long-grain Basmati to short-grain Arborio, the diversity of rice varieties is astonishing. Different cultivars are adapted to different climates and terrains, with distinctive flavors, textures, and uses. This versatility makes rice suitable for cultivation across latitudes and environments.

2. Rice feeds more people worldwide than any other crop

Almost 3.5 billion people depend on rice for more than 20% of their daily calories. No other crop even comes close in terms of its importance as a global food staple. From Asia to Africa to South America, rice forms the foundation for meals and food security.

3. China and India produce and consume the most rice

Together, China and India account for almost half of global rice production. Rice farming and consumption is intricately linked to the cuisine, culture, and agriculture of these two countries. They also house almost all of the world’s rice biodiversity in situ.

4. The oldest evidence of rice cultivation is from China, almost 10,000 years ago

Archaeological evidence from China’s Yangtze River valley reveals domesticated rice dating back to 9,000 – 10,000 years ago. This makes rice one of the first crops to be cultivated by humans, marking the dawn of agriculture in history.

5. There are special rice varieties grown for sake production in Japan

Onigiri, Japanese Food, Japanese Rice Ball
Onigiri, Japanese Food, Japanese Rice Ball

Sake, the quintessential Japanese rice wine, relies on a special variety called sakamai or rice for sake. Over 100 sakamai cultivars are grown across Japan, particularly prized for their starch content and ability to brew premium sake.

6. Basmati rice is aged like wine before being sold

The process of aging improves the aroma and elongates the slender Basmati grain. Traditionally, Basmati paddy is aged naturally for over a year in burlap sacks before milling and sale. This special treatment allows Basmati to fulfill its status as the “queen of rice”.

7. Red yeast rice is used in traditional Chinese medicine

Red yeast rice is a product of rice fermented with the red yeast Monascus purpureus. In addition to its intense red color, red yeast rice contains Monacolins that help regulate cholesterol levels. It finds use in traditional Chinese medicine and cuisine.

8. Rice terraces are built into mountains across Asia

Rice terraces in mountains at sunrise, Bali Indonesia
Rice terraces in mountains at sunrise, Bali Indonesia

From the Cordilleras of the Philippines to the mountains of Vietnam, dazzling rice terraces step down steep slopes. These terraces maximize available space for paddy cultivation in dense, mountainous regions. Their beauty also makes them important cultural landscapes.

9. Floating rice is grown in flood-prone areas

In the “floating gardens” of Bangladesh and parts of India, traditional rice cultivars are grown in flooded conditions. These floating rice varieties thrive in unpredictable water levels, helping maximize yields. Their long stems allow the plant to remain above rising waters.

10. Rice flour was one of the earliest plastics

Way before modern plastics, Japanese craftsmen used rice flour to create incredibly realistic masks called Noh masks. Rice flour made the perfect material – easy to mold, lightweight and durable when dried.

11. Rice is deeply embedded in mythology and folklore

Across Southeast Asia, there are various myths around rice being a gift from the gods to provide nourishment. Rice goddesses like Dewi Sri are revered in rituals for bountiful harvests. These stories underline the sacred status of rice in numerous cultures.

12. The rice variety with the highest yield is currently from China

In 2018, Yuan Longping, the “Father of Hybrid Rice” in China released a new cultivar with a record yield of 17 tonnes per hectare. This dwarf, super high-yield variety has the potential to boost production globally.

Rice paddy
Rice paddy

In Japan and Taiwan, farmers grow paddy in meticulously planned plots to create stunning giant “paintings”. From famous figures to anime characters, skilled farmers can “draw” portraits on the paddy fields.

14. Rice is the first major crop with a fully sequenced genome

In 2005, rice became the first crop genome to be completely sequenced and mapped. This has paved the way for identifying genes for higher yield, climate resilience, and improved nutrition in rice.

15. India holds the record for the largest serving of cooked rice

In 2017, chefs in New Delhi cooked over 7000 kgs of biryani rice to set a Guinness World Record. Thousands gathered to partake in the festivities and the giant serving of India’s beloved rice dish.

16. Astronauts grow rice in space

Cultivating rice plants on the International Space Station helps researchers study how microgravity impacts plant growth and development. This is vital for understanding crop cultivation techniques for future space travel.

So beyond just being a versatile grain, rice has shaped history, cultures, medicine, genetics research, and even space travel! Hopefully, this glimpse into the fascinating world of rice has revealed why it is truly an amazing grass.

Key Takeaways on Rice

  • Rice feeds almost half the global population, making it the world’s most important staple crop.
  • China has the oldest evidence of rice farming dating back 10,000 years.
  • Special rice varieties are grown for products like sake and red yeast rice.
  • Unique cultivation techniques like floating rice and terraces allow rice farming in challenging terrains.
  • Rice features prominently in mythology, art, genetics research, and space stations!

Frequently Asked Questions on Rice

Which country produces the most rice in the world?

China produces the highest quantity of rice in the world, at over 200 million metric tonnes annually. This is followed by India, which produces around 160 million metric tonnes of rice per year.

What is the healthiest rice?

Brown rice is often considered the healthiest rice option. This whole grain rice has the bran and germ intact, giving it more fiber, nutrients like magnesium and selenium, as well as antioxidants.

Which rice is the most expensive?

The most expensive rice variety is a tie between a rare Japanese koshihikari rice called Akitakomachi and a special black rice grown in Italy called Nero di Vialone. Both can cost over $100 per kilogram.

What gives the rice its white color?

Rice grains are brown or red when harvested. Milling removes the outer bran layer and reveals the white inner endosperm which is the rice grain we consume. The degree of milling impacts color.

Can you grow rice in your backyard?

It is possible to grow some rice varieties in backyard paddies and self-watering planter boxes. Miniature dwarf cultivars can adapt to small spaces. Paddy-based systems will require access to irrigation. Proper soil moisture is key.

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