Rice is a global staple and is the primary source of carbohydrates for many cultures around the world. Studies show that rice was first cultivated in China (which probably explains why they are the biggest producers and consumers of rice in the world). Here in Texas, rice has been commercially cultivated since the early 19th century and some of the earlier mills that processed the rice are still there today. There’s also evidence that points to rice being cultivated as early as the 1600s by the Native Americans as a staple. Rice is extremely versatile as it is a blank canvas which enhances the eating experience of whatever dish it is paired with. Not only is it delicious but it’s an economical source of energy for the body and it has a high nutritional value in the form of complex carbohydrates.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Order: Poales
- Family: Poaceae
- Genus: Oryza
- Species: O. sativa
- Binomial name: Oryza sativa
- Americans eat around 24 pounds on rice per person per year, this is tiny when compared to Asians who eat 300 pounds of rice per person per year on average.
- Rice is the highest yielding cereal grain with one seed of rice yielding as much as 3,000 grains.
- Texas is a major rice-producing state.
- More than one billion people around the world are actively involved with growing rice.
- More than half the world considers rice as their main dietary staple.
- “Wild rice” isn’t rice.
- The Banaue Rice Terraces, which is considered as the 8th wonder of the world, is a 2000-year old set of terraces that have been carved into the side of a mountain. This was featured at the end of Avengers: Infinity War.
- Asia consumes and produces 90% of the world’s rice.
Rice Buying Guide
With over 40,000 different varieties of rice, it can get confusing. Good thing we have a list of the most common types of rice that’s sold so you’ll know what type of rice to get for a specific use.
- Brown Rice – Technically, all rice is brown rice. Brown rice is also known as whole grain rice. Brown rice isn’t polished and the only part that is removed is the inedible outer hull. Since the germ and the bran are in place, it has a denser texture and nuttier flavor than polished white rice. Not only that, but it’s more nutritious as well.
- White Rice – This is the most common type of rice. This type has the hull, germ, and bran removed to give the rice its pristine white color. People willingly exchange the nutritional value of the germ and the bran in exchange for ease to cook and delicate taste.
- Arborio rice – This is a short-grain Italian rice. This is rich in amylopectin, which makes it chewy, yet firm and creamy at the same time. This is a cousin of sticky rice and is better known as “Risotto” rice.
- Bomba rice – This is also known as Valencia rice and is spherical in shape. This type of rice is extremely absorbent and requires more liquid to cook, making it perfect for rice dishes that require flavorful rice like Paella and Jambalaya.
- Glutinous Rice – This is also known as sticky rice and is typically used for desserts or ground into sweet rice flour to be used in desserts like mochi.
- Sushi Rice – This is a short-grain rice that resembles bomba rice in appearance but it is known for its stickiness. As the name implies, it is typically used for making sushi.
- Wild Rice – This isn’t technically rice, but it’s a term for a type of grain that’s native to China and North America. It’s typically dark in color and resembles long-grain rice in shape but has a deeper and nuttier flavor.
- Jasmine Rice – This is long grain rice that’s known for its fragrance and its delicate flavor. This is a staple in Thai cooking and is usually steamed plain and served as a companion to many dishes.
- Basmati Rice – This is one of the longest grained rice out there and is the preferred rice for Indian, Central Asian, and Middle Eastern cuisine. You might recognize this rice if you’ve ever had biryani rice or authentic rice pilaf.
Rice Production & Farming in Texas
Rice has been farmed in Texas long before it was known as Texas with some evidence pointing to the cultivation of rice in the area from 1685. Today, total rice production in Texas contributed about half a billion dollars for the state’s economy every year. This makes Texas around the fourth or fifth highest rice-producing state and produces about seven percent of the country’s rice supply.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
Rice has a lot of pesticide residues so it’s one grain (although it’s technically grass) that you should buy organic. According to Safe Food, grains have more pesticide residue than any most products. Whole grain rice or brown rice contains much more pesticide residue than polished white rice because the bran has not been polished off, so if you’re a big fan of brown rice, all the more reason to buy organic.
Rice comes packaged in many forms. The most common packaging of commercial rice is that it is vacuum bagged then boxed for easier stacking on store shelves. For larger quantities of rice, they can be in burlap sacks or sacks made from woven plastic fibers.
For preparation tips and more information on this global staple, check out Chef Ben’s post on this Food Staple Here
Rice, in the proper storage conditions, can last for a whole year without losing its flavor and nutritional value. It’s still good for up to two years but the taste quality will suffer. To store uncooked rice, make sure to place it in an airtight container, away from heat and moisture.
How to prepare steamed rice:
Rice can be cooked in a number of different ways, but our favorite way to prepare rice is to just plain steamed and served any main dish with a lot of sauce.
Long or medium-grain white rice, 1 cup
Water, 2 cups
Wash the rice and drain. Repeat this two to three times or until the water runs clear. This step is important to remove the extra starch in the rice. By washing the rice, the end product will be fluffy and not clumped together.
In a medium saucepan (make sure there’s enough room for the rice to expand) bring the water to a boil and stir in the rice. Bring the water back into a simmer and set the heat/fire to low. Cover.
Check after 15 minutes to see if the rice is tender and all of the liquid has been absorbed. If it hasn’t, return the cover and check every two minutes. Once all of the liquid has been absorbed, turn off the heat and let sit for about five minutes.
Fluff the rice with a fork and allow the excess steam to escape. Transfer to a serving plate and enjoy!