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By Medifit Biologicals

 

RICE

rice

RICE HISTORY

During the Colonial Period, coastal South Carolina was the largest producer of rice in America. The crop arrived in the area around 1685. A brigantine ship, captained by John Thurber and sailing from the island of Madagascar, encountered a raging storm, perhaps a small hurricane, and put into Charleston Harbor for repairs.

With the ship in dry dock, Captain Thurber met Henry Woodward, the town’s best known resident, who had the distinction of being the first English settler in the area. Thurber gave Woodward a bag of rice. Some say a peck, others say a bushel. Woodward experimented with the rice, which gave him a good crop. Rice was soon on its way to becoming the area’s main cash crop.

The respected Thomas Jefferson traveled to the low country of the Carolinas to find out why Italian rice, at the time, fetched a higher price in the Paris market than Carolina rice. He became its biggest fan. In fact there were at least one hundred MAJOR rice plantations in the region, with names like: Hobcaw Barony, Beneventum, Chicora Wood and Hasty Point, to name a few … all feeding off of rivers flowing into tidal bays. One of those rivers is the Great Pee Dee, and this is where our flavors start.

Rice remained a dominant commodity on the coastal rivers of South Carolina until the end of the Civil War, when production started a long decline due to a loss of labor and working capital, and aided by several severe storms. In the early 1900’s rice farming disappeared from the state all together. Rice was never grown as a cash crop in the Darlington area where Plumfield Plantation now produces Carolina Plantation Rice, but it was grown there in small plots by slaves who raised it for their own consumption, as they had traditionally in Africa.

In 1997, Campbell Coxe planted 20 acres on his family farm near Darlington, South Carolina. Campbell grows the Della variety. “People who buy our product like its aromatic appeal and its taste, ” he says. His rice rates highest on the aromatic scale. He says this is probably because of the rich soil, climate, water and northern latitude where he grows Carolina Plantation Rice.

 

THE ORIGIN OF RICE

The origin of rice is buried in obscurity and the depths of time. Till today, we do not know when it was first discovered and domesticated and perhaps this is one fact we will never come to know. In the long and turbulent history of the human race, one of the most important developments that led to the development of civilizations was the domestication of rice, for this one single variety of grain has fed and nourished more people over a longer period of time than any other crop.

Rice or Oryza Sativa (as botanists prefer to call it) is not a tropical plant but is still associated with a wet, humid climate. It is generally believed that the domestication of rice began somewhere in the Asian arc. From its place of birth, lost forever in the mists of time, the plant and its grain spread all over the world.

According to some schools of thought, It is probably a descendent of wild grass that was cultivated in the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas and the upper tracts of the Irrawady and Mekong river basins. Another school of thought believes that the rice plant may have originated in southern India and then spread to the north of the country.

From India, the plant spread to China and then onwards to Korea, the Philippines (about 2000 B.C.), Japan and Indonesia (about 1000 B.C.). The Persians are known to have been importers of this grain. From there its popularity spread to Mesopotamia and Turkestan. It is believed that when Alexander the Great invaded India in 327 B.C., one of the priced possessions he carried back with him was rice.

Arab travelers took it to Egypt, Morocco and Spain and from there it traveled all across Europe. The Portugese and Hollanders took rice to their colonies in West Africa. From Africa it traveled to America through the ‘Columbian Exchange’ of natural resources – rice being a gift from the Old World to the New. Rice has been cultivated in the United States of America for the last three hundred years.

It was in China that the process of puddling soil and transplanting seedlings was likely refined. With the development of puddling and transplanting, rice became truly domesticated. In China, the history of rice in the river valleys and low-lying areas is older than its history as a dryland crop. In Southeast Asia, by contrast, rice was originally grown under dryland conditions in the uplands, and later it came to occupy the vast river deltas. Migrants from South China or perhaps South East Asia carried the traditions of wetland rice cultivation to the Philippines during the second millennium B.C., and Deutero-Malays may have carried the practice to Indonesia about 1500 B.C. From China or Korea, the crop was introduced to Japan around 100 B.C.

According to some schools of thought, It is probably a descendent of wild grass that was cultivated in the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas and the upper tracts of the Irrawady and Mekong river basins. Another school of thought believes that the rice plant may have originated in southern India and then spread to the north of the country.

The journey of rice around the world has been slow, but once it took root it stayed and became a major agricultural and economic product for the people. In the Indian subcontinent more than a quarter of the cultivated land is given to rice. It is a very essential part of the daily meal in many parts of the country.

The rice grain is treated with honour in the subcontinent and in Asia: for here the failure of the rice crop in not only an economic setback but can also create a famine-like situation. Wastage of rice is viewed rather badly in these societies and superstitions about the grain abound.

 

WHAT IS RICE?

Rice is a keystone of the grass family that produces a vast number of grains consumed by humans. It has been under intensive cultivation originating in Asia for over 4,000 years and has since spread across the world, where almost a third of the population depends on rice for vital nutrition. This grass is in the genus Oryza, which is separate from that of wheat, spelt, and similar grass crops, although it resembles them in structure.

Like most grasses cultivated for human consumption, rice is an annual crop that needs to be resown for harvest each year. It is grown in partially submerged fields, also called paddies, and when mature, the plant reaches a height of approximately 3 feet (1 meter). Rice has a classically grass-like appearance, with a small cluster of kernels at the top of a long stalk. It’s harvested when it turns golden, and the resulting crop is threshed to remove the hulls. Many developing nations use the chaff as fuel for electricity generation.

There are many cultivars of rice grown around the world, although they can primarily be broken up into long grain varieties such as jasmine and basmati and short grain styles such as those used to make sushi. If the bran, or outer part of the grain, is left on, the resulting product is considered to be brown rice. If removed, the grain is white rice. Many cultures prefer brown because it has a higher nutritional value than white, including important levels of vitamin B.

Rice is a very versatile grain, which can be ground into flour for the gluten intolerant, cooked slowly in paella, or steamed to accompany a wide array of Asian dishes. Popular dishes with it include sticky rice with mango, which uses a special type of short grain rice that comes in white, brown, and black varieties. The black variety is known in Thailand as “forbidden rice.”

Shorter grain rices tend to stick together better and are used for sushi and other dishes in which it needs to be shaped. Longer grain, such as basmati, is looser and frequently appears as a side dish. Rice is also used in the production of grain alcohols such as sake, popular in Japan.

Some white rice is sold enriched with vitamins and minerals in an attempt to provide more complete nutrition to the purchaser, especially in impoverished regions where it is the primary staple food. Some companies have genetically modified rice in an effort to make it retain more nutrients, but these efforts have not been entirely successful.

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TYPES OF RICE

Rice growing in fields and paddies has three edible parts – the bran, the germ, and the endosperm – just like all other whole grains. Most of us think of “brown rice” as being synonymous with whole grain rice, but in fact whole grain rice can be many different colors, depending on the variety of rice. Most rice varieties look similarly white once they’re milled to remove the bran and germ – but trace them back to their origins, and you’ll see a vibrant range of colors.

 

  • RICE GROWING IN A FIELD

Rice is generally grown as an annual crop, with seedlings planted or seeds sown in late spring and harvest about six months later. Flooding at various stages in the plant’s life keep pests and weeds at bay. Depending on the variety and on soil and weather conditions, rice plants can grow to anywhere from 3′ to 6′ tall (1-2m).

 

  • CLOSE-UP OF RICE GROWING

the rice “heads” filling with kernels.

 

  • LONG GRAIN BROWN RICE

Long grain rice has a long, slender kernel, four to five times longer than its width.  Cooked grains are separate, light, and fluffy.

 

  • MEDIUM GRAIN BROWN RICE

Medium grain rice has a shorter, wider kernel (two to three times longer than its width) than long grain rice.  Cooked grains are more moist and tender, and have a greater tendency to cling together than long grain.

 

  • SHORT GRAIN BROWN RICE

Short grain rice has a short, plump, almost round kernel.  Cooked grains are soft and cling together.

 

  • SWEET BROWN RICE

Sweet rice is short and plump with a chalky white, opaque kernel.  When cooked, sweet rice loses its shape and is very sticky.

 

  • WEHANI RICE

This long-grain honey-red rice was naturally-bred and developed from an Indian Basmati-type seed. Like other aromatic rices, it has a distinctive nutty fragrance when cooked.

(Lundberg Family Farms developed this variety of rice. While we don’t usually use brand names, we’re including Wehani rice here to illustrate the diversity of rice varieties available, and to make the point that new varieties are being developed all the time.)

 

  • BROWN BASMATI RICE

India is well known for its fragrant Basmati rice, another aromatic long-grain rice with a distinct “popcorn” aroma.

 

  • HIMALAYAN RED RICE

Also imported from India, this long-grain rice has a reddish bran layer and a nutty, complex flavor that adds visual and taste delight to any dish.

 

  • COLUSARI RED RICE

Grown in the Sacramento Valley of the U.S., Colusari Red Rice originated in a seed bank in Maryland. When  cooked, it adds an upscale burgundy color to the plate.

(As with the Wehani rice above, this rice was custom-developed, through natural breeding – this time, for Indian Harvest Specialtifoods.)

 

  • PURPLE THAI RICE

Slightly sweeter than some other rices, Purple Thai rice was traditionally used in dessert recipes, but is now turning up in savory dishes too. Add other ingredients at the last minute, unless you want them to take on the distinctive reddish-blue hue of this rice!

 

  • CHINESE BLACK RICE

Chinese Black Rice is a medium-grain rice with white kernels inside the black bran. Cooked, it takes on a deep purplish color.

 

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HEALTH BENEFITS OF RICE

The health benefits of rice include its ability to provide fast and instant energy, regulate and improve bowel movements, stabilize blood sugar levels, and slow down the aging process, while also providing an essential source of vitamin B1 to the human body. Other benefits include its ability to boost skin health, increase the metabolism, aid in digestion, reduce high blood pressure, help weight loss efforts, improve the immune system and provide protection against dysentery, cancer, and heart disease. Rice is a fundamental food in many cultural cuisines around the world, and it is an important cereal crop that feeds more than half of the world’s population.

The various benefits of rice can be found in more than forty thousand varieties of this cereal that is available throughout the world. The two main categories are whole grain rice and white rice. Whole grain rice is not processed very much, so it is high in nutritional value, whereas white rice is processed so that the bran or outer covering is removed, leaving it with less nutritional value. People choose different styles of rice for particular flavors, depending on their culinary needs, the availability, and the potential for healthy benefits as well!

Rice can also be defined by the length of each grain. Indian or Chinese cuisines specialize in long grained rice, whereas western countries prefer short or medium length grains.

 

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Some of the health benefits of rice are explained below.

GREAT SOURCE OF ENERGY: Since rice is abundant in carbohydrates, it acts as fuel for the body and aids in the normal functioning of the brain. Carbohydrates are essential to be metabolized by the body and turned into functional, usable energy. The vitamins, minerals, and various organic components increase the functioning and metabolic activity of all your organ systems, which further increases energy levels.

 

CHOLESTEROL FREE: Eating rice is extremely beneficial for your health, simply because it does not contain harmful fats, cholesterol or sodium. It forms an integral part of balanced diet. Any food that can provide nutrients without having any negative impacts on health is a bonus! Low levels of fat, cholesterol, and sodium will also help reduce obesity and the health conditions associated with being overweight. Rice is one of the most widely used and eaten foods in the world because it can keep people healthy and alive, even in very small quantities.

 

BLOOD PRESSURE MANAGEMENT: Rice is low in sodium, so it is considered one of the best foods for those suffering from high blood pressure and hypertension. Sodium can cause veins and arteries to constrict, increasing the stress and strain on the cardiovascular system as the blood pressure increases. This is also associated with heart conditions like atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes, so avoiding excess sodium is always a good idea.

 

CANCER PREVENTION: Whole grain rice like brown rice is rich in insoluble fiber that can protect against many types of cancer. Many scientists and researchers believe that such insoluble fibers are vital for protecting the body against the development and metastasis of cancerous cells. Fiber, specifically is beneficial in defending against colorectal and intestinal cancer. However, besides fiber, rice also has natural antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin-A, phenolic and flavonoid compounds, which also act as or stimulate antioxidants to scour the body for free radicals. Free radicals are byproducts of cellular metabolism that can do serious damage to your organ systems and cause the mutation of healthy cells into cancerous ones. Boosting your antioxidant levels is a great idea, and eating more rice is a wonderful way to do that.

 

SKIN CARE: Medical experts say that powdered rice can be applied topically to cure certain skin ailments. On the Indian subcontinent, rice water is readily prescribed by ayurvedic practitioners as an effective ointment to cool off inflamed skin surfaces. The phenolic compounds that are found in rice, particularly in brown or wild rice, have anti-inflammatory properties, so they are also good for soothing irritation and redness. Whether consumed or topically applied, substance derived from rice tend to relieve a number of skin conditions. The antioxidant capacity also helps delay the appearance of wrinkles and other premature signs of aging that can affect the skin.

 

ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE: Brown rice is said to contain high levels of nutrients that stimulate the growth and activity of neurotransmitters, subsequently helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease to a considerable extent. Various species of wild rice have been shown to stimulate neuroprotective enzymes in the brain, which inhibit the effects of free radicals and other dangerous toxins that can cause dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

 

DIURETIC AND DIGESTIVE QUALITIES: The husk part of rice is considered to be an effective medicine to treat dysentery, and some people say that a three month old rice plant’s husks are said to have diuretic properties. Chinese people believe that rice considerably increases appetite, cures stomach ailments and reduces all digestive problems. As a diuretic, rice husk can help you lose excess water weight, eliminate toxins from the body like uric acid, and even lose weight, since approximately 4% of urine is actually made up of body fat! The high fiber content also increases bowel movement regularity and protects against various types of cancer, as well as reducing the chances of cardiovascular diseases.

 

RICH IN VITAMINS: Rice is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals like niacin, vitamin D, calcium, fiber, iron, thiamine and riboflavin. These vitamins provide the foundation for body metabolism, immune system health, and general functioning of the organ systems, since vitamins are commonly consumed in the most essential activities in the body.

 

CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH: Rice bran oil is known to have antioxidant properties that promote cardiovascular strength by reducing cholesterol levels in the body. We have already spoken about the cardiovascular benefits of fiber, and low levels of fat and sodium. Wild rice and brown rice varieties are far better than white rice in this category, since the husk of the grain is where much of the nutrients are; the husk is removed in white rice preparation.

 

RESISTANT STARCH: Rice abounds in resistant starch, which reaches the bowels in an undigested form. This type of starch stimulates the growth of useful bacteria that help with normal bowel movements. Also, this insoluble rice is very useful in reducing the effects of conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and diarrhea.

 

According to the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, the nutritional value of rice needs to be improved even more so that it benefits mankind.  Rice, being the most dominant cereal crop in most of the world can improve the lives of millions of people who consume it.

 

Efforts are currently being made to increase the micro-nutrient value of rice by combining traditional methods of growing crops with modern bio-technology. The institute further states that the development of rice with high iron and zinc compounds could be possible through bio-fortification. That can also induce high quality yields, which could be eagerly accepted by farmers as well as rice consumers for healthier, longer lives.

 

THE LAST WORD ON RICE

 

Rice can also prevent chronic constipation. The insoluble fiber from rice acts like a soft sponge that may be pushed through the intestinal tract quickly and easily. Brown rice and whole grains are known to be rich in insoluble fiber. However, it is advisable to drink lots of water for relieving your constipated condition, in addition to eating fibrous foods.

 

Diabetic patients should include brown rice rather than white rice, which contains low levels of glycemic index. As little as one cup of brown rice on a daily basis provides a person with almost 100% of their daily manganese requirement, which helps to produce energy from carbohydrates and protein. Brown rice is also extremely beneficial for normal functioning of the nervous system and the production of sex hormones.

By Medifit Biologicals

www.medifitbiologicals.com