Rice is the seed of a grass species Oryza sativa (Asian) or Oryza glaberrima (African). It is the most widely consumed cereal grain in the world. Rice is the most important grain in regard to human nutrition and calorie intake by humans. Chinese legend and genetic evidence have shown that rice originated in the Pearl River valley region of ancient China. From there it has spread through trade around the world. Today there are many varieties and culinary preferences. It is well suited to countries with low labor costs and high rainfall because of it’s labor intensive cultivation and high water requirements. With today’s irrigation and other water controlling techniques, rice can be grown practically anywhere.
Brown rice is considered by many to be one of the world’s healthiest foods. The difference between brown and white rice has much to do with the milling process. Only the outer hull is removed in brown rice preparation. White rice is the result of the removal of the bran and germ layers and many of its nutrients. A further polishing process produces what we think of as white rice. This removes the alerone layer of the grain, filled with essential fats, to extend the shelf life. Brown rice has a number of health benefits including energy and antioxidant protection from its manganese, it is rich in fiber and selenium, and it is recognized for cholesterol and type 2 diabetes risk lowering abilities. It is the perfect baby’s first food and brown rice flour can be used for vegetarian pancakes, breads and other gluten-free baked goods, providing a rich, nutty flavor.
Rice is available prepackaged or in bulk containers. Be sure to check the “use by” date since brown rice is more susceptible to becoming rancid than white rice. Brown rice will keep fresh for about six months if stored in an airtight container. If you don’t cook with it often, store it in the fridge. White rice, if stored properly, will keep fresh for 25-30 years. Rice can be stored in glass jars, mylar bags, food safe plastics. You can use oxygen absorbers in containers. Some people use bay leaves.
Like all grains, natural brown rice should be rinsed to remove dirt and debris before cooking. To bring out a good nutty flavor, toast the rice in a teaspoon of olive or sesame oil until it becomes dry and begins to look slightly toasted. Rice is cooked by boiling or steaming and absorbs water during cooking. Different types of rice vary slightly in the amount of water to add and in cooking time. It can be soaked prior to cooking to reduce cooking time, conserve fuel, and reduce stickiness. To cook brown rice, add two parts water or broth to one part rice, bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Let it stand for 10 -15 minutes off the heat, covered to absorb the final bits of water. Fluff with a fork and serve while warm. Store leftovers in the refrigerator, after they have completely cooled, for 3-5 days. Brown rice can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
In your preparedness pantry, rice is economical as well as versatile. It can be used for desserts as well as main or side dishes. Long-grain rice cooks up dry and fluffy and is good in curries, pilafs, and casseroles. Medium-grain rice is also good for casseroles. Short-grain rice is more tender and sticky. It is good for breakfast cereals, puddings and oriental dishes. Instant rice has been precooked before dehydrating and packaging. It is fast but lacks the flavor and texture of regular rice. Combined with beans they provide all the amino acids required to make a complete protein. Families should store approximately 300 pounds of grains per person per year. This amount should include wheat, rice, oats, and pasta as well as rice.
Billie Nicholson, Editor