7 Things You Never Knew About Rice

Informative facts about the go-to grain.

Make the Sticky Rice
Photo: © Tara Fisher

You probably haven't given rice much thought. It's just a cooking staple with a permanent spot in your pantry, right? Wrong: Rice has an incredibly long history (with documentation of people eating it as early as 2500 B.C.), and some of its details are fascinating. Here, seven facts you probably didn't know about rice.

  1. The Great Wall of China is held together with sticky rice. If you've ever tried to remove caked-on rice from the bottom of a pot, you know how strong it can be. While the Great Wall was being built during the Ming dynasty in the 15th and 16th centuries, workers used a porridge made with rice along with calcium carbonate as a mortar to hold the wall's stones together.
  2. Rice is good for years — unless it's brown. 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 because the bran coating will oxidize.
  3. Wild rice isn't rice. Wild rice is a distant relative to all of the other rices commonly eaten today, most of which are in the Oryza sativa family. Instead, wild rice is part of the Zizania genus. It's a grain harvested from marsh grasses grown in North America and China.
  4. All white rice starts brown. OK, you might know this one, but it's important. White rice is just brown rice that's been rid of its outer bran layer and polished.
  5. Rice is grown on every continent except Antarctica. Rice is adaptable, easy to grow, and it has a very high yield, making it a terrific crop to grow anywhere and feed a large population. Just one seed of rice will result in over 3,000 grains.
  6. Americans eat more than 26 pounds of rice every year. That might seem like a lot, but it's nothing compared to the rest of the world. According to the U.S. Rice Producers Association, people in Asia eat up to 300 pounds a year and residents of the United Arab Emirates consume 450 pounds per year. The French, on the other hand, eat hardly any rice at all — just 10 pounds every year.
  7. The largest bowl of fried rice was fed to pigs. In October 2015, 300 cooks teamed up in Yangzhou, China, to break the world record for the largest bowl of fried rice. They did it, creating a bowl of Yeung Chow fried rice (made with rice, eggs, chicken, ham, shrimp, dried scallops, and vegetables) that weighed in at 9,242 pounds. Everyone celebrated until pictures emerged of some of the rice (deemed unfit for human consumption) being loaded into dump trucks and sent to pig farms. According to Guinness, the entirety of the rice needed to be edible (by humans) to qualify. So the record is still held by the Turkey Culinary Federation in Bolu, Turkey, which made a 6,944-pound bowlful.
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