The Ecology of Humans (51-11) Rice


Rice is the edible seed of a plant in the Oryza genus. Rice cultivation began in China 11–13 tya.

In southeast Asia, south China and Japan, rice became the predominant grain. Its labor-intensive cultivation required cooperation at times of planting and harvest, engendering a communal culture that endured for millennia in those societies.

In contrast, cultures which relied upon crops that could be independently grown led to a sense of individualism. The wheat-growing peoples of the Fertile Crescent are exemplary.

Whole grain (aka brown) rice is greatly preferable to white rice, as processing strips most of the nutritional value. White rice is commonly artificially “enriched” with vitamins in an unsatisfactory attempt to restore what was stripped away by milling and polishing the grains. The nutrient content of rice varies widely by variety, and by the quality of soil in which the plant is grown.

Rice contains arsenic, for which there no safe level. American rice is especially high in the carcinogen, thanks to historic pesticide usage. As always, organic is best.

Rinsing rice before cooking removes its starchy coating. If you want starchy rice, don’t rinse it.

Rice needs to be soaked before cooking, usually overnight. Japanese short-grain rice, once rinsed and drained for 10–15 minutes, is best soaked for 30 minutes before heating it.

Besides dietary fiber and protein, brown rice offers antioxidants, manganese, selenium, phosphorus, copper, and magnesium.