Rice is one of the most popular staple foods across the entire world. It’s rich in nutrients and calories and can be used in a variety of dishes. To give you an idea of how much rice we eat, rice production in India, China, and Indonesia is estimated to be 535 million tons per year. These countries also consume the most rice, but rice is gaining popularity in many other countries around the world. It’s increasingly popular worldwide as a component of Asian and Mediterranean dishes.
Two Methods of Cultivating Rice
Rice can be cultivated in two ways: wet cultivation and dry cultivation.
Wet Rice Cultivation
In wet rice cultivation, rice is grown in wetlands prone to flooding and high rainfall. Artificial irrigation can also be used to create the right environment for wet rice cultivation. This method of cultivating rice uses between 3,000 – 5,000 litres of water to grow one kilogram of rice.
Wetlands are prepared by ploughing, with either traditional methods such as water buffalos or with modernized equipment. Rice seedlings are scattered in nursery beds, which start the first 35-50 days of the growing process. Then the rice plants are transplanted into the main fields.
Rice straws are later harvested when they’re 130-136 days old. Excess water is drained from the field, and stalks are cut with a handheld scythe or by machinery.
Dry Rice Cultivation
Dry rice cultivation is also known as upland rice cultivation because it’s mainly used in regions with low rainfall or in mountainous territory. This method is more expensive because pest management is a constant problem. However, this method can be used in more regions than wetland cultivation because it requires much less water (as little as a few centimetres).
Dry rice cultivation uses rain-fed fields that are heavily ploughed and weeded before use. These fields are seeded dry, like in wheat production. Harvesting is similar to wet cultivation, except there is no need to drain the field first. Otherwise, stalks are cut and threshed in a similar way.
Although rice production is an ancient practice, it’s been modernized and mechanized, especially across Europe and in the USA.
The History and Culture of Rice
Rice is a daily staple food to millions of people around the world. Originating in Asia, rice production and consumption has spread to countries all over the world and has become one of the most popular foods on the planet. Today, rice is produced in more than 100 countries, including Pakistan, Spain, Italy, Thailand, and India.
Rice grows best in a wet, humid climate, which means it can be easily cultivated in regions where other grains struggle to grow. Because of this, it’s become one of the most common foods that supply important nutrients to families in developing areas where other foods can be prohibitively expensive. In countries like Nigeria and India, rice consumption is vital for the population to thrive.
The Origin of Rice
There are many stories and fascinating myths about the origins of rice. From factual accounts, we can date the early production of rice as far back as 6000 BC, with the first documented crops in the southern area of China.
From there, rice quickly spread to other parts of Asia, including India, Sri Lanka, and Korea. Soon rice was a common crop in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Japan.
When Alexander the Great came back from his expedition to India in 327 BC, he brought the production of rice with him to Greece. From there, it was a short time before Arab trade brought rice cultivation to Egypt, Morocco, and Spain.
During the 10th century, rice spread through Persia and Europe. The first two European
countries to produce rice were Spain and Italy. Today, Italy is the largest rice producer in Europe.
By the time history reached the colonial era, rice production had spread down through West Africa. As colonization moved to the Americas, rice found its way to the tropical growing areas there.
The Culture of Rice
Wherever it is grown, rice becomes a critical part of the local culture. In many countries, rice is seen as the king of all food crops.
Every culture has a different way of including rice in their daily meals – from fried rice to sushi, Risotto to rice pudding, and from coconut rice to horchata. There is truly an endless variety of ways to enjoy rice.
Rice has also changed the nutrition and eating culture of many countries around the world.
Rice has also changed the nutrition and eating culture of many countries around the world
In Nigeria, for example, rice is so much more than food, it can be considered a lifestyle. Rice is built into the daily life and routine of most Nigerians, making it a distinct element of their culture. In China, it’s not unusual to hear “Have you eaten rice today?” as a common greeting.
Rice is often even more than a staple of daily diets. It’s also used as an important cultural centrepiece during holidays and festive seasons. In Senegal, rice is used as a treat for special guests and visitors. In Nigeria, rice is cooked during festive holidays like Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Easter.
In Japan, rice is considered a symbolic mother who guides her children. Rice farmers are seen as guardians and custodians of the ancient Japanese culture. In India, cultural rituals for the goddess Lakshmi include the entire process of rice cultivation – such as ploughing, transplanting, harvesting, and storage.
In some countries like Indonesia, India, and Italy, rice plays a role in wedding ceremonies. Rice symbolizes fertility, good fortune, and prosperity. It’s often thrown at newly married couples as a conclusion to the wedding ceremony.
For all of these incredibly varied cultures, rice has become far more than just an ordinary food. It is a symbol that plays an integral role in the culture itself.