Groceries and supermarkets have made food shopping so easy that we often don’t think about where our food comes from. Meat, vegetables, grains, and other goodies just seem to appear magically in our markets and we reap the benefits. But something even as simple as rice undergoes a complicated process in order to get to our grocery stores. The process is pretty interesting and it might make you re-think the way you look at that next bowl of rice. It might make your dishes even more satisfying to know so much care and effort has gone into getting the rice to your kitchen.
Even before rice is placed into the ground and grown, there is an elaborate preparation process that takes place. Rice needs very specific conditions in order to grow and fields have to be leveled and surrounded by water dikes. The fields are then plowed and watering equipment is then installed into the rice fields.
After the seeds are washed, they are either planted into the ground by hand or by airplane. In most Asian countries rice is still planted by hand because most farmers are poor. Laborers will painstakingly plant each seed by hand, making sure to leave enough space between seeds. After about a month these seeds are moved from nursery beds to paddy fields. In the States, rice seeds are usually planted by a low-flying airplane.
After three months of growth, rice is ready to be harvested and picked. The water is drained from the paddy fields which cause the rice grains to further ripen. In Asian countries these seeds are harvested by hand while in the States, there is usually elaborate equipment that can harvest the seeds mechanically. The grains are then put into racks that are either placed under the sun or under a mechanical heater. This takes away more moisture from the grains and allows the rice to further ripen.
Hulling and Milling
The rice grains then go through a process that removes the outer hulls from the inner grains. Hulling is basically a rough process that bangs and smashes the hulls from the centers. Some farmers do this by hand using stones while others rely on equipment to perform this task. Once the hulls are removed they are thrown away and the rice grains are left behind. In some cases a thin layer of glucose is added to the grains to add sheen and color.
Because most of the nutrients in rice lie in the hulls, an enriching process has to be done in order to add the vitamins and minerals back into it. Pressure is often used in order to transfer the nutrients from the hulls into the kernels. In some cases, rice is placed into a nutrient-rich bath that further infuses the kernels with vitamins and minerals.
The rice is then left to dry and placed into large satchels or bags that are sent to our local markets and grocery stores. Pricing depends largely on the region where the rice has come from and the types of kernels that have been harvested. As you can see, there’s a lot that goes on in order to get this seemingly simple grain onto your plate. It takes a lot of time and manpower in order to access these delicious grains.
Your Dinner Table
The rice you’ve purchased at the supermarket has gone through an incredible journey. But now it’s going to its most exciting adventure yet. It’s about to be turned into a delicious dish for your family to enjoy. Rice is a great food to work with because it offers a lot of versatility while absorbing all of your favorite flavors. You can use it as a side for scrumptious meals this feature prime rib or baked salmon. You can also feature it more prominently with hearty dish is like risotto. It also provides wonderful opportunities to explore other cultures and their cuisine, especially Asian ones. How about homemade sushi for your next family meal? Would congee hit the spot? It’s all make possible with rice.