The history of rice

Rice is the No.1 food in the world. It is the most important food and its nutritional value is higher than the wheat, the corn and the bananas. It is the main food for about 3 million people, which means, for about half of the world population and it accounts for 20% of calories that are consumed by humans.

In Asia, more than 3 billion people, receive 70% of their calories from rice. More than 520 millions of rice tons are produced each year and more than 1\10 of the cultivable land is used for rice cultivation, which, ecologically speaking, consists rich and completely stable ecosystems. Wheat and corn production is bigger, but 20% of wheat and 65% of corn are used for feed. However, almost the whole quantity of rice, is consumed by humans.

It is a member of a plants’ family, that includes cannabis, grass and the bamboo. There are more than 120.000 different varieties of rice that include not only white grains, but also black ones and red ones. It grows almost everywhere: it can be found in the flooded hounds of Bangladesh and Japan, in the Himaloyan Plateau in Nepal even in the deserts of Egypt and Australia.

It is said that it was first cultivated in China, about 10.000 years ago. The oldest finding is 7.000 years old and was found in the provinces of Zheijiang. It is about rice grains that were white, while they were in the ground, but after their exposure in light, they turned into black and at this moment they are kept in a museum.

According to a chinese legend, back in time, when people were suffering from a huge plague outbreak, Buone God, decided to sacrifice all of his teeth, by throwing them to a bog, as he could not stand seeing people in such a bad condition. Water turned his teeth into grains that grew up and gave thousands of rice plants. Ever since, rice comes together with abudance and throwing rice at the newlywed couple, symbolizes love and fertility.

In Ancient Greece, they threw at the couple rice desserts, while in Indonesia they throw rice right after the wedding in order to keep the groom’s soul tied, which would otherwise escape.

It is said that rice cultivation became known in ancient Greece and in the nearby areas by soldiers, who came back from the military campaign that was conducted by Alexander the Great in India in 344-324 B.C and gradually the cultivation spread all over Europe and in N. Africa. Others claim that it was spread in Europe, through Spain, with the invansion of Arabs. Even during the Medievan Times, rice was regarded a food flavoring from the East and they used it mainly as a meal in order to thicken their soups, or as a make up basis. They often used it as a medicine for different health issues concerning the bowels, while it was soon added along with corn, in the diet that was expected to deal with peoples’ hunger.

Rice should never be omitted from the table. It’s high nutritional value in B complex vitamins, trace minerals like phosphorus, calcium, potassium and starch, make it necessary for the flu prevention, for the normal bowel function, while as an oil it subserves in controlling the <<bad cholesterol>>. It is a perfect choice for all seasons and especially in winter, it’s contribution to our health is greater.

Rice bran contains antioxidants, metals and vitamins. It does not contain gluten, so it is a perfect choice for those who are allergic to gluten.

If you want to stay young, relax yourselves with a bath and add hot water and 200-500 gr of rice starch for a lean and soft skin.

The chaff of the rice was used in Ancient Times for the manufacture of sandals, ropes, hats and patching for house roofs.

There are two main types of rice: the Indian and the Japanese. The first one has big and oblong grains and releases easily starch during cooking. When it absorbs water, it expands. Generally speaking, these kind of varieties are more appropriate for risotto and paella, while the ones with the smaller grains are more appropriate for desserts and rice cakes. This is the rice category that is used mainly by people of the Mediterranean.

The varieties that belong to the Indian type of rice, are charachterized by long and thin grains. They do not get sloppy, even if they are overcooked, due to the fact that they release less starch. They are a good choice for salads, stuffed vegetables and oriental recipes. Also,they are used as accompaniment, often replacing bread.

Rice grain consists of the core that includes the embryo (the grain heart), the endosperm that feeds the embryo, the hull and numerous layers of rice bran. Rice can be sold either brown or refined. The refined or otherwise the white rice, that is mainly consumed, consists only of core. Brown rice is the one that keeps some of the nutritional layers of rice bran, demands more cooking time (30-40 minutes) and releases less starch. During chewing is soft but be careful: it goes off more easily that the white rice, that is why it should be consumed immediately, so that no one will suffer from food poisoning.

Rice brans and hulls are removed during the grinding process. In most places around the world, remnants are used for feed, but in Japan they use them in order to make salad and cooking oil, as they believe that it is a secret for longevity. In Egypt and in India, they turn them into soups. Including whole-grain rice in our diet, can prevent the beriberi illness.

Rice texture is defined by the amylose factor. If amylose is low (10-18%), then the rice is soft and sticky. If amylose is high, then the rice is harder and fluffy. People in China, Korea and Japan, prefer their rice sticky. In India, Bagladesh and Pakistan people prefer their rice fluffy, while in southeastern Asia, Indonesia, Europe and America, they prefer a middle state of the rice. The more amylose a rice contains, the harder it will be in digestion.

Due to its varieties and its process, rice is charachterized as superfine. The closer a rice variety comes to the superfine category, the more valueable it becomes. However, it should not be taken for granted that these rice categories are the best. Another charachteristic of them is their transparecy degree. Parboiled is the most transparent. The more transparent a rice is, the more appropriate is for soups, as it absorbs the ingredients of the broth and makes the mixture homogenous. Also, the more transparent it is, the more hard it remains and it is the most appropriate for baked meals and salads.

Also, rice is used for the production of beverages. Sake is a known wine, with a quite long history, similar to the long history of rice and it is even now connected with traditions and rituals. In Asia, Arack and Choum Choum are also known. Nowadays, 1\10 of rice production in USA is used for the production of beer <<with lighter color and refreshing flavor>>.

As an old commercial used to say, the earth comes back to rice and this statement is not a hyperboly.

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