Rice next to maize (corn), is used more extensively as a food than any other cereal. It is the most important staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in East, South, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and the West Indies.

Rice is the seed of a monocot plant Oryza sativa. It is a plant much like wheat in appearance, but it grows best in warm climates and requires very moist soil.

Rice cultivation is well-suited to countries and regions with low labor costs and high rainfall, as it is very labor-intensive to cultivate and requires plenty of water for cultivation.

Before rice grains are prepared for use as food, they have two coverings. One is a coarse outer husk of the grain (chaff ) that is thrashed off and leaves the grain in the form of unpolished rice called brown rice. The milling may be continued, removing the 'bran', i.e., the rest of the husk and the germ, thereby creating white rice.

White rice, which keeps longer, lacks some important nutrients; in a limited diet which does not supplement the rice, brown rice helps to prevent the disease beriberi.

In composition, rice differs from the other cereals in that it is practically all starch and contains almost no fat nor protein.

White rice may also be buffed with glucose or talc powder (often called polished rice, though this term may also refer to white rice in general), parboiled, or processed into flour. White rice may also be enriched by adding nutrients, especially those lost during the milling process. While the cheapest method of enriching involves adding a powdered blend of nutrients that will easily wash off (in the United States, rice which has been so treated requires a label warning against rinsing), more sophisticated methods apply nutrients directly to the grain, coating the grain with a water insoluble substance which is resistant to washing.

Parboiled rice is subjected to a steaming or parboiling process while still a brown rice. This causes nutrients from the outer husk, especially thiamine, to move into the grain itself. The parboil process causes a gelatinisation of the starch in the grains. The grains become less brittle, and the color of the milled grain changes from white to yellow. The rice is then dried, and can then be milled as usual or used as brown rice. Milled parboiled rice is nutritionally superior to standard milled rice. Parboiled rice has an additional benefit in that it does not stick to the pan during cooking, as happens when cooking regular white rice. This type of rice is eaten in parts of India and some countries of West Africa are also accustomed to consuming parboiled rice.

To be perfect, rice should be unbroken and uniform in size, and in order that it may be put on the market in this form the broken grains are sifted out.

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Did You Know?
Since a large portion of maize (corn) crops are grown for purposes other than human consumption, rice is probably the most important grain with regards to human nutrition and caloric intake, providing more than one fifth of the calories consumed worldwide by the human species.

A traditional food plant in Africa, rice has the potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare.

Rice is normally grown as an annual plant, although in tropical areas it can survive as a perennial and can produce a ratoon crop for up to 20 years. The rice plant can grow to 1–1.8 m tall, occasionally more depending on the variety and soil fertility. The grass has long, slender leaves 50–100 cm long and 2–2.5 cm broad. The small wind-pollinated flowers are produced in a branched arching to pendulous inflorescence 30–50 cm long. The edible seed is a grain (caryopsis) 5–12 mm long and 2–3 mm thick.

Rice can be grown practically anywhere, even on a steep hill or mountain. Although its parent species are native to South Asia and certain parts of Africa, centuries of trade and exportation have made it commonplace in many cultures worldwide.

In India, rice is cooked in boiling milk and the mixture is then sweetened with jaggery to form 'payash' or 'ksheer'.

The water in which polished rice is washed will have a milky appearance, which is due to the coating that is put on in polishing rice.

Rice is a comparatively cheap food, because it is plentiful, easily transported, and keeps perfectly for an indefinite period of time with very little care in storage.