1. A cereal grass that yields grain harvested as an important food crop. Rice is so important that half of the people in the world depend upon it for nearly 50% of their daily intake of calories. Rice is grown in river deltas, flooded or irrigated coastal plains, or terraced hillsides. It can be grown in many climate conditions, but it is most often cultivated in sub-tropical locations and in temperate areas with long, hot and humid growing seasons. There are thousands of varieties of rice and many of the plants grow as high as 12 feet. Asia supplies most of the world’s rice and most of the rice produced in the United States is grown in the lower Mississippi valley and California. Over half of the rice produced in the United States is exported.

One of the most common methods of classifying rice is by length: short, medium, or long-grain. To be classified as short-grain rice, the grains must be less than two times longer than the width. Some short grain rice varieties are about as long as they are wide (making them almost round). Short grain rice is usually very starchy and the grains have a tendency to stick together after being cooked. It cooks up tender and soft and is most often used for sushi, risottos, stir-fry recipes, and desserts. To be classified as medium-grain rice, the grains must be two to three times longer than the width. Medium-grain is less sticky when cooked, but it tends to clump together when cooled. It holds plenty of moisture when it is cooked and remains a bit firmer than short-grain. To be classified as long grain, rice grains must be at least three times longer than the width. Long grain rice usually cooks up fluffy and does not stick together after it is cooked. Boiling and baking are excellent preparation methods for long-grain rice and it is the most common type cultivated and used in the United States.

Rice varieties are available in both white and brown forms. White rice has had the husk, bran, and germ removed (polished), which allows it to cook rapidly. This makes it the most popular, but it is also the least nutritious because of the removal of the bran and germ. White rice is often enriched with nutrients, such as iron, niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin (especially in Western nations), to help restore some of the lost nutritional value. The bran and germ becomes a by-product that is used to produce rice oil, also known as rice bran oil, to be used as cooking oil.

Some varieties of white rice can be quite tasteless on their own (unless an aromatic variety, such as basmati or jasmine is used), so they are often used as a base for other flavorful dishes, such as stir-fried ingredients, steamed vegetables, or stews. If served simply as a side dish, many cooks like to enhance the taste with herbs, spices, oils, or other flavorings. Brown rice is more flavorful than white rice and it has a chewier texture.

Other forms or rice include parboiled, instant rice, puffed rice, and rice flakes. Parboiling is a process that creates stiffer rice kernels that are extra fluffy, do not stick together, and retain more of the original nutrients than regular varieties of white rice. Instant rice refers to rice that has been processed, pre-cooked, and then dehydrated to make it shelf stable. Puffed rice is produced from rice grains that are heated to a high temperature and placed under extreme pressure, which expands the grains to a volume that is several times larger than their original size. Rice flakes are produced from rice that has been parboiled and then rolled, flattened, and dried. They are very popular in Asian cooking, but in Western countries they are more often used commercially in the production of cereals and rice snacks.

White rice can be stored indefinitely in an airtight container in a cool, dry location. Brown rice can be stored for only a half year because the natural oils in the bran and germ tend to cause rancidity. The shelf life can be extended if it is stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Cooked rice should be stored in the refrigerator and can be used for up to 3 or 4 days or it can be stored in the freezer for about 2 months.

2. To force soft or cooked food through a kitchen tool known as a “ricer” in order to change the appearance of the food to resemble rice. A cooked potato is a food that is commonly “riced”.

USDA Nutrition Facts


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