Rice provides more than one-fifth of all calories consumed by humans worldwide. Global rice cultivation is dominated by Asian varieties of Oryza sativa, first domesticated almost 10,000 years ago in the Yangtze Valley region of China. However, Asia is not the only region with native rice species. African rice (Oryza glaberrima) is native to West Africa and was domesticated there approximately 4,000 years ago. The Anishinaabeg and other Native peoples of the Great Lakes region of North America have been harvesting wild rice (Zizania palustris), called manoomin in the Anishinaabe language, for thousands of years.
African Cultivation Knowledge
In the late 17th century, rice was introduced to colonial South Carolina, where the plant was well suited to local soil. As the need for rice cultivation labor increased, the knowledge carried by enslaved West Africans—who had been cultivating the crop in the Senegambia region for centuries—became highly valuable. Their advanced technical knowledge, experience, and enslaved labor were foundational and inextricably linked to creating a lucrative rice industry. Following the Civil War, rice production could not survive without enslaved labor. California, with its newly arrived immigrants from China and Japan, became the top rice producer in the U.S., and continues to be so today.
What Makes Brown Rice Healthier?
The difference between white rice and brown rice lies only in processing. White rice has to be pounded and processed to have the husk, bran, and germ of the rice grain removed. Brown rice retains the bran and germ, which contain most of the grain’s vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
One of the most commonly eaten foods around the world, our shared rice eating traditions connect us to each other. Rice is a culinary chameleon—as delicious as a main dish as it is under a flavorful curry, stew, or sauce. Find regional rice recipes with this map:
Try incorporating rice into your diet with this recipes from our Edible Academy, and share what you make using #AroundTheTable!
Here are some fun facts about rice!
- While the Great Wall of China was being built, workers used a porridge made with rice along with calcium carbonate as a mortar to hold the wall’s stones together.
- Uncooked white rice will stay fresh and edible for anywhere between 10 and 30 years (depending on how it is stored). But uncooked brown rice has a shelf life of just three to six months, as the bran coating will oxidize.