Where Rice came from...

Rice has fed more people over a longer period of time than any other crop. As far back as 2500 B.C. rice has been documented in the history books as a source of food and for tradition as well. Beginning in China and the surrounding areas, its cultivation spread throughout Sri Lanka, and India. It was then passed onto Greece and areas of the Mediterranean. Rice spread throughout Southern Europe and to some of North Africa. From Europe rice was brought to the New World. From Protugal it was brought into Brazil and from Spain to Central and South America. 

Rice could be taken to many parts of the world due to its versatility. It is able to grow in the desert conditions of Saudi Arabia, in the wetland deltas of Southeast Asia in the flooded rice plains which we are most familiar with. 

Two species have emerged as our most popular cultivated rice. Oryza sativa and Oryza glaberrima, of these two species the more widely produced is O. sativa. From an early history in the Asian areas rice has spread and is now grown on all continents except Antarctica. 

Being able to grow in this wide spectrum of climates is the reason rice is one of the most widely eaten foods of the world. 

Rice and Myths

Rice is an integral part of many cultures folklore. In Myanmar, the Kachins were sent forth from the center of the Earth with rice seeds and were directed to a country where life would be perfect and rice would grow well. In Bali, Lord Vishnu caused the Earth to give birth to rice and the God Indra taught people how to raise it. And in China rice is the gift of animals. Legend says after a disastrous flooding all plants had been destroyed and no food was available. One day a dog ran through the fields to the people with rice seeds hanging from his tail. The people planted the seeds, rice grew and hunger disappeared. All of these stories and many others have rice as their foundation and for generations people have believed these lores of Rice. 

Rice the Plant

Rice, a member of the family Poaceae, is one of the three leading crops in the world and has a variety of uses. People have used rice to make snacks, desserts, main courses, alcoholic beverages and special foods for religious ceremonies. As a nutrition source, rice is abundant in carbohydrates while being low in nitrogenous matter and fat (xxxxx). For millions of people rice is 3/4 their total diet. In looking towards the future, scientists are working on a technique to maximize year-round production of the crop on a given plot of land in order to increase yields for a rice eating populous (xxxxx).  

Introduction | Flowers&Fruit | Roots | Stems | Leaves

© Thomas L. Rost 1997
Section of Plant Biology Division of Biological Sciences