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Deciphering the Rice Grain

Updated on April 10, 2011

A Rice Grain

American Long Grain Rice
American Long Grain Rice

Rice can be grown almost anywhere.

Terraced rice paddy
Terraced rice paddy
This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. Author Bernard Gagnon
This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. Author Bernard Gagnon

Rice has been grown in China and Southeast Asia since about 10,000 BC. Worldwide, the production of rice is second only to corn; however, a large portion of corn production is not for human consumption. This makes rice the most important grain in regards to human nutritional intake. Rice provides more than one fifth of the world’s caloric intake.

Most of the world’s population depends on rice as their staple food. There are approximately 40,000 different varieties of rice which are typically categorized by grain size. However, rice can also be categorized by color, flavor or any processing it has undergone.

Rough rice, or paddy rice, is rice that has not been milled. Before the rice can be packaged or cooked, it needs to have the outer hull or husk removed. This hull is removed by milling it with a rice huller. Once the chaff, or outer husk, is removed it is called brown rice. Brown rice has a slightly chewy texture and a mild nutty flavor. Because brown rice has had minimal processing, it is the most nutritious.

Milling Rice

Brown rice can be milled further, removing the bran and germ. The resulting product is called white rice. Removing the bran and germ also removes much of the nutritional value of the rice. To compensate for this loss, white rice is often enriched with iron, niacin and thiamine. Because the germ has been removed, white rice has a much longer shelf life than brown rice. White rice can be further subdivided into long grain rice, medium grain rice, and short grain rice.

Long grain rice is the most common type of rice and tends to remain intact after cooking, while medium grain tends to be slightly sticky. Long grain and medium grain rice are often interchangeable depending on preference. Short grain rice contains more starch and tends to become very sticky when cooked.

Parboiled rice is pressure steamed prior to milling. The steaming process causes the vitamins and minerals in the outer coats to migrate toward the center of the kernel. This process makes the rice extra fluffy without sacrificing any of its nutrients. It also ensures a firmer and more separate grain.

Precooked (quick cooking) rice is rice that has been cooked after the milling process. The precooking can be done to either brown or white rice. The cooking time for precooked rice is greatly reduced, taking only minutes, because it only needs to be rehydrated.

Wild rice, contrary to its name, is not actually a member of the rice family. It’s the grain gathered from an aquatic grass native to North America.

Rice Facts

Rice is a good source of protein, but it is not a complete protein; it does not contain sufficient amounts of all the essential amino acids and should be combined with other sources of protein, such as nuts, seeds, beans, fish, or meat.


Some interesting facts about rice:

  • Rice is grown on every continent except Antarctica.
  • One seed of rice yields more than 3,000 grains.
  • 50% of the world's rice is eaten within 8 miles of where it is grown.
  • In several Asian languages the words for “food” and “rice” are identical.
  • Rice is a symbol of life and fertility, which is why it was a tradition to throw it at weddings, confetti has now replaced rice.
  • There are over 29,000 grains of rice in one pound of long grain rice.

Feed the Poor with Free Rice

Help feed the poor with Free Rice.
Help feed the poor with Free Rice.

Free Rice

If you’re interested in helping feed the poor, here’s a fun game I think you’ll enjoy.

♦ How to Play:

· Click on the right answer in the middle of the page.

· If you get it right, you get a harder question. If you get it wrong, you get an easier question.

· For each answer you get right, FreeRice will donate 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program


Submit a Comment

  • Lamme profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago

    Thanks Lita, I have never seen rice milled by hand, but I remember watching the old-fashioned rice hullers. The hulls were then used in fires, etc. Great memories! We love rice as well, a staple food for so many cultures. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Lita C. Malicdem profile image

    Lita C. Malicdem 

    8 years ago from Philippines

    Oh, I see again those golden palay(rice grains)! Reminds me of the antiquated milling process of palay among the barrio folks, particularly the farmers themselves, who used the pound and pestle. The rhythm of the alternate pounding and the body movement of 2 pounders were a scene to behold. Awesome fresh smell and taste of the rice was preserved. Very nostalgic photo. I'm an Asian and rice is our staple food. Thanks for the due respect you have given the lowly palay in this hub.

  • Lamme profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago

    Hi Jill. Thanks for your comments. When you get your hub written, let me know and we can link them.

  • jill of alltrades profile image

    jill of alltrades 

    8 years ago from Philippines

    What a great hub about rice! We eat rice every mill and I am really thankful that you wrote this hub about.

    I have long been planning to take photos of rice especially its flowers. However, I have not yet gotten down to it. I live in the city now and don't have ready access to rice paddies. Anyway, once I get those photos, I will write a hub about them and maybe link with your hub?

    Thanks again for this wonderful hub Lamme. I'll try the rice game after I post this. I have actually played it before.

    See you around!

  • Lamme profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago

    Thanks cvanthul, I like the rice game too.

  • cvanthul profile image

    Cristina Vanthul 

    8 years ago from Florida

    Excellent, informative hub. I love that you added the rice game. I've been playing it for several years.

  • Lamme profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago

    That's right. Although Americans are eating more rice than ever before, it's still only a fraction of what many other countries consume. Many Asian cultures serve rice 2 or 3 times a day. Thanks for your comment Hawgly.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Great information. Because America only produces 8.8 million tons (1.4% of the global rice harvest) we often forget that that rice is THE staple food for most nations. The Asian continent produces 574 million tons (91% of global rice harvest).


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