Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima. As a
cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the
world's human population, especially in East and South Asia, the Middle East,
Latin America, and the West Indies. It is the grain with the second-highest
worldwide production, after maize (corn).
Since a large portion of maize crops are grown for purposes other than human
consumption, rice is the most important grain with regard to human nutrition and
caloric intake, providing more than one fifth of the calories consumed worldwide
by the human species.
Rice is normally grown as an annual plant, although in tropical areas it can
survive as a perennial and can produce a ratoon crop for up to 30 years. The
rice plant can grow to 11.8 m (3.35.9 ft) tall, occasionally more depending on
the variety and soil fertility. It has long, slender leaves 50100 cm (2039 in)
long and 22.5 cm (0.790.98 in) broad. The small wind-pollinated flowers are
produced in a branched arching to pendulous inflorescence 3050 cm (1220 in)
long. The edible seed is a grain (caryopsis) 512 mm (0.200.47 in) long and 23
mm (0.0790.12 in) thick.
Rice cultivation is well-suited to countries and regions with low labor costs
and high rainfall, as it is labor-intensive to cultivate and requires ample
water. Rice can be grown practically anywhere, even on a steep hill or mountain.
Although its parent species are native to South Asia and certain parts of
Africa, centuries of trade and exportation have made it commonplace in many
The traditional method for cultivating rice is flooding the fields while, or
after, setting the young seedlings. This simple method requires sound planning
and servicing of the water damming and channeling, but reduces the growth of
less robust weed and pest plants that have no submerged growth state, and deters
vermin. While flooding is not mandatory for the cultivation of rice, all other
methods of irrigation require higher effort in weed and pest control during
growth periods and a different approach for fertilizing the soil.
There are many varieties of rice; for many purposes the main distinction is
between long- and medium-grain rice. The grains of long-grain rice (high amylose)
tend to remain intact after cooking; medium-grain rice (high amylopectin)
becomes more sticky. Medium-grain rice is used for sweet dishes, for risotto in
Italy and many arrossos as in arrςs negre, etc. in Spain.
Rice is cooked by boiling or steaming, and absorbs water during cooking. It can
be cooked in just as much water as it absorbs (the absorption method), or in a
large quantity of water which is drained before serving (the rapid-boil method).
Electric rice cookers, popular in Asia and Latin America, simplify the process
of cooking rice.
In Arab cuisine rice is an ingredient of many soups and dishes with fish,
poultry, and other types of meat. It is also used to stuff vegetables or is
wrapped in grape leaves. When combined with milk, sugar and honey, it is used to
make desserts. In some regions, such as Tabaristan, bread is made using rice
flour. Medieval Islamic texts spoke of medical uses for the plant.
Rice may also be made into rice porridge (also called congee, fawrclaab, okayu,
jook, or rice gruel) by adding more water than usual, so that the cooked rice is
saturated with water to the point that it becomes very soft, expanded, and
fluffy. Rice porridge is commonly eaten as a breakfast food.
Rice may be soaked prior to cooking, which saves fuel, decreases cooking time,
minimizes exposure to high temperature and thus decreases the stickiness of the
rice. For some varieties, soaking improves the texture of the cooked rice by
increasing expansion of the grains.
Instant rice differs from parboiled rice in that it is milled, fully cooked and
then dried. There is also a significant degradation in taste and texture.
A nutritionally superior method of preparing brown rice known as GABA Rice or
GBR (Germinated Brown Rice) may be used. This involves soaking washed brown rice
for 20 h in warm water (38°C or 100°F) prior to cooking it. This process
stimulates germination, which activates various enzymes in the rice. By this
method, a result of research carried out for the United Nations International
Year of Rice, it is possible to obtain a more complete amino acid profile,
Cooked rice can contain Bacillus cereus spores, which produce an emetic toxin
when left at 460 °C (39140 °F) . When storing cooked rice for use the next
day, rapid cooling is advised to reduce the risk of toxin production.
Rice flour and starch often are used in batters and breadings to increase