It is not usually eaten cooked or boiled. In some areas, such as Spain, rice is first fried in olive oil or butter, then cooked with water or soup. In other areas, such as India, rice is eaten with sauce or curry. Rice can also be used to make alcohol, such as Japanese sake.
Rice is mostly eaten steamed or boiled, but it can also be dried and ground into a flour. Like most grains, rice can be used to make beer and liquors. Rice straw is used to make paper and can also be woven into mats, hats, and other products.
Since it has been such an important grain worldwide, the domestication and cultivation of rice is one of the most important events in history that has had the greatest impact on the most people. When and where the domestication of rice took place is not specifically known, but new archaeological evidence points to an area along the Yangtze River in central China and dates back as far as 11,000 years. Researched by a team of Japanese and Chinese archaeologists and presented at the 1996 International Symposium on Agriculture and Civilizations in Nara, Japan, radiocarbon testing of 125 samples of rice grains and husks, as well as of rice impressions in pottery, from sites located along a specific portion of the Yangtze unanimously indicate a median age of over 11,000 years. Another discovery of possibly the oldest settlement found in China, which is located closely upstream from the other sites, gives credence to the new findings.
Since it retains the outer bran layers of the rice grain, brown rice needs no other processing. However along with added vitamins and minerals, the bran layers also contain oil that makes brown rice spoil faster than milled white rice. That is one of the reasons why brown rice is milled further to create a more visually appealing white rice.
The milling process that produces white rice also removes much of the vitamins and minerals found primarily in the outer bran layers. Further processing is often done in order to restore the nutrients to the grain. Once complete, the rice is called converted rice.
Straw from the harvested rice plants is used as bedding for livestock. Oil extracted from discarded rice bran is used in livestock feed. Hulls are used to produce mulch that will eventually be used to recondition the farm soil.
With one out of every three people on earth dependent on rice as a staple food in their diet and with 80-100 million new people to be fed annually, the importance of rice production to the worldwide human population is crucial. Scientists and farmers face the daunting task of increasing yield while minimizing rice farming’s negative environmental effects. Organizations such as the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the West African Rice Development Association (WARDA), and Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT [International Center for Tropical Agriculture]) are conducting research that will eventually lead to more productive varieties of rice and rice hybrids, use of less water during the growing season, decrease in the use of fresh organic fertilizer that contributes to greenhouse effect, and crops more resistant to disease and pests.