The Production And Uses Of Rice
Rice is the edible grain from a plant also called Rice. Scientifically, Rice is an annual grass in the grass family, Poaceae. Asian rice is classified as Oryza sativa and African rice as Oryza glaberrima. Rice is the primary food for more than half the people in the world. In many regions it is eaten with every meal and provides more calories than any other single food. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) confirmed that rice supplies an average of 889 calories per day per person in China and in the United States provides an average of 82 per day in contrast to that in China. Rice provides about 90 percent of calories from carbohydrates and about 13 percent from protein which places it as one of the world’s most reliable nutritious food.
Rice is mostly grown in Asia and Africa. The Asian rice is the most popular because of the technological upgrade given to Rice planting in some parts of Asia while the African Rice is hardier and not as popular as the Asia’s. The Rice grain or Kernel contains an embryonic Rice plant and just like other seeds has its different components. The first or the outer cover which is called the hull is a hard protective covering over the bran. The bran consists of layers of fibrous tissue that contain vitamins, protein, minerals and oil; and the endosperm which contains starch. It is the bran and the endosperm that constitute the nutritious edible Rice.
Production:There are two kinds of Rice farming: the upland and the lowland Rice farming. The upland is planted on the dry soil while the lowland is planted in the water mostly swampy. The lowland Rice farming produces more yield than the upland probably because of the availability of more nutrients in the water based swampy soil. In Africa and other developing countries, Rice production is done manually; the planting, harvesting, threshing and processing, in contrast to mechanical Rice farming in developed countries where tractors and other machineries are used in the production of Rice.
The rice plant is a type of grass that has narrow leaves and grows between 60cm to 180 cm tall. It usually has flower stalks emerging from the plant and a loose cluster of branches called panicle emerges out from the top of each stalk with small green flowers hanging from the stem. When the grain is matured, the panicle sags under the weight of the matured kernels or grains. Each of the stems carries so many Rice kernels or grains.
History:The most widely accepted theory is that Rice cultivation originated in Asia around 10,000 BC and this was confirmed by archeological findings in the area. There are evidences that Rice was cultivated in Thailand as early as 4000 BC and later spread to other parts of Asia. It is also believed that Rice cultivation got to Africa and the Middle East by 400 BC; and to Greece and other Mediterranean countries by 330 BC. Rice got to the American colonies in the early 1600s and the commercial production began in 1685. From then, Rice spread to many other parts of the world and many countries began producing Rice.
Uses:Rice is used in many ways both for food and other purposes. Everything about Rice is of economic importance to man: the bran for oil; hull for fuel, fertilizers and insulations; straws from the leaves and stems are used for weaving roof tops, baskets, hats and bedding for animals. The edible Rice also have different purposes like in Japan where they use it to brew alcoholic drink known as ‘the saki’ as well as delicacies like the ‘sushi’ and many other indigenous cuisines. The other forms of preparing the edible Rice for food include the popular fried Rice, Jollof Rice mostly cooked in the tropics, the plain cooked Rice that can be eaten with stews, soups, salads and ketchups etc. In some part Africa, there are local ways they prepare Rice for food. There is the ‘Tuwo’ which is made from smoothly grinded and cooked Rice; it’s being moulded and could be eaten with African soups. The local ‘Rice pudy’ is made from cooked and mashed Rice mixed with sugar and milk.
The brown Rice is more nutritious than the white because of the bran but when the bran is removed and polished, it becomes white with less nutrients. The white Rice is preferred by many because it can be preserved for a longer time than the brown.
Picture of rice farming by IRRI Images (flickr.com) creative commons
Goswill A. Paul is a Clergy and Authour based in Lagos.