Honestly, have you ever wondered how many tons of rice are produced every year? I will answer right away: Approximately 740 million tons! However, this is not the plant with the largest production. In this particular classification, rice comes third as it follows the sugar cane and corn with almost 2 billion tons and 1 billion tons respectively. Since, though, enough of the sugar cane’s and corn’s production goes to the feeding of the animals which feed us, rice ends up being the produce with the largest production for human consumption globally. In fact, at this point, it is worth mentioning that the 1/5 of the whole earth’s population calories comes from the rice!
A few words for the plant…
There are two types of the plant. The first is the Oryza sativa. It was first cultivated in Asia and for many years now, it is widely cultivated all over the world. The second, which was first cultivated in Africa, is the Oryza glaberrima and is now cultivated in very few countries, even though it was a very good kind of plant, ideal for the climatic conditions of the particular area. As for its cropping, in most cases it is annual but, in the case that the rice is cultivated in tropical countries, it can be considered as multiannual cropping, with the plants lasting for even 30 years. There are, of course, countless varieties of rice all over the world, which are cultivated based on the conditions of each area.
The types of rice
The types of rice are differentiated based on the size of their produce. Usually, the long-grain types contain more amylose, something that makes them unbreakable during the boiling. The types that are short-grain, on the other hand, are usually rich in amylopectin. What does that mean? That the short-grain types of rice are stickier and so, they are mainly used for making risotto, rice pudding, and sushi. Lastly, it is also worth mentioning the aromatic long-grain rice types which are used for our pilafs, but also for some Asian dishes, such as the jasmine rice and the basmati one.
The classification of rice, though, does not stop here! Rice can, also, be categorized based on its color which starts from brown and reaches to white. The darker it is, the more hulls of the rice it contains, the more boiling time it needs, but also, the richer it is in nutrients and fibers! You see, in order for the rice to become white, it must pass through special mills, and it is in this particular phase that it loses its hull, something that also happens to wheat (whole grain).
Two more types of rice, that are a bit different and do not follow the above rules, are the yellow and black types of rice: The yellow rice (parboiled or bonnet), is basically preboiled and is the perfect choice for a pilaf. The black rice, which is not even rice (it is a type of grasses that is called wild rice), comes from North America and we can use it in salads or “marry” it with several other types of rice and create interesting mixtures.
And now we move onto the more common types…
At this point, we will see some of the most common types of rice that exist in Greece and we will learn where we can use each one.
> Glace rice
Medium-grain and soft rice. It has plenty of starch, which makes it ideal for soups, rice pudding and generally everything that we want to be“thick”. We use it, also, for stuffed vegetables (gemista) and for anything that is baked in the oven.
> Carolina rice
Medium-grain, but with less starch, is ideal for tasty casseroles where we need it to hold the filling together. It, also, absorbs oil better, a fact that makes the particular rice available for pilafs- mainly Indian and Persian.
> Nihaki rice
Harder rice, long-grain and so, with less starch. It is used for fluffier pilafs with measured water.
Now, you have a complete picture of the types of rice and for their use in cooking. Really, which of these recipes could be your favorite? You know what? It doesn’t even need to be one…There could be as many as you love!