Black Rice

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By Judith A. Carney

Few Americans identify slavery with the cultivation of rice, yet rice was a major plantation crop during the first three centuries of settlement in the Americas. Rice accompanied African slaves across the Middle Passage throughout the New World to Brazil, the Caribbean, and the southern United States. By the middle of the eighteenth century, rice plantations in South Carolina and the black slaves who worked them had created one of the most profitable economies in the world.

Black Rice tells the story of the true provenance of rice in the Americas. It establishes, through agricultural and historical evidence, the vital significance of rice in West African society for a millennium before Europeans arrived and the slave trade began. The standard belief that Europeans introduced rice to West Africa and then brought the knowledge of its cultivation to the Americas is a fundamental fallacy, one which succeeds in effacing the origins of the crop and the role of Africans and African-American slaves in transferring the seed, the cultivation skills, and the cultural practices necessary for establishing it in the New World.

In this vivid interpretation of rice and slaves in the Atlantic world, Judith Carney reveals how racism has shaped our historical memory and neglected this critical African contribution to the making of the Americas.

The book is available Harvard University Press

Book Review: Hatsume Sato

Hatsume Sato was well-known for helping people heal through her culinary skills. At her forest retreat, “Ischia of the Forest " in northern Japan, she taught many how to make a delicious Omusubi (Japanese: Rice Ball) by allowing the rice to "breath.” Many people believed her Omusubi guided them to a better life. A believer in food consciousness, she died at the age of 94 in February 2016.

This small pocket size book is narrated gently in her voice with a powerful and inspiring message. The food for nourishing life is prepared in a very simple and peaceful way.  She uses only the most fresh, natural and seasonal ingredients in her cooking. She believed that understanding all ingredients and their purpose brings them to life, and allows us to experience the true natural flavor of their taste.

Rice flour vs Sweet Rice flour

Rice flour is ground from long- or medium-grain rice, the rice that we usually eat. It has some thickening properties and it is a good gluten free substitute for wheat flour in baking. (100g / 359 kcal)

Sweet rice flour is ground from a high-starch, short-grain rice, or "sticky rice (mochiko),” to use as an effective thickener for sauces or binder for mochi. Sweet rice flour is also used for confections, noodles and sauces in many Asian countries.  (100g / 360 kcal)

Rice is transparent whereas glutinous, or sweet rice is opaque. Rice starch is mainly composed of amylose and amylopectin. Sweet rice is composed of nearly pure amylopectin. This characteristic makes it very viscous and useful as a superior thickening agent by inhibiting liquid separation.

A letter from Thomas Jefferson

From Thomas Jefferson to William Drayton, 30 July 1787

Paris:
"Having observed that the consumption of rice in this country, and particularly in this Capital was very great, I thought it my duty to inform myself from what markets they draw their supplies, in what proportion from ours, and whether it might not be practicable to increase that proportion. This city being little concerned in foreign commerce, it is difficult to obtain information on particular branches of it in the detail. I addressed myself to the retailers of rice, and from them received a mixture of truth and error, which I was unable to sift apart in the first moment. Continuing however my enquiries, they produced at length this result; that the dealers here were in the habit of selling two qualities of rice, that of Carolina, with which they were supplied chiefly from England, and that of Piedmont; that the Carolina rice was long, slender, white and transparent, answers well when prepared with milk, sugar &c. but not so well when prepared au gras; that that of Piedmont was shorter, thicker, and less white, but that it preserved it’s form better when dressed au gras, was better tasted, and therefore preferred by good judges for those purposes; that the consumption of rice in this form was much the most considerable, but that the superior beauty of the Carolina rice, seducing the eye of those purchasers who are attached to appearances, the demand for it was upon the whole as great as for that of Piedmont."

Rice Straw and Soybeans

Meju (fermented soybeans) is the key ingredient in making soy sauce

Meju (fermented soybeans) is the key ingredient in making soy sauce

In Korean culture, we eat fermented soybean products every day, such as soy sauce, soybean paste (Doenjang),and red pepper paste (Gochujang).  An important part of making these fermented soybeans is the rice straw. My grandmother always says, “Save the rice straw, it is useful for something.”

Bricks of dried fermented soybeans are tied in rice straw and hung where there is good air circulation. The rice straw has Bacillus subtilis, a good bacteria, which promotes the fermentation process.  Over time the soybeans absorb the bacteria in the rice straw.  The bacteria is important because it creates a sticky substance which gives the soybeans their unique aroma and taste.

In Korean these fermented soybeans are called Meju.  Meju is the key ingredient in making soy sauce. 

A soybean used in Japanese cooking called Natto is also wrapped in rice straw. It becomes very sticky and pungent in its fermented form. Just like the Meju, Nattō needs the correct temperature, humidity and circulation to be its best.

In the Edo Period (1615-1868), there were " Nattō vendors" who walked around town selling their fermented soybeans during the fall and winter months when the bacterium grew readily. Today, Japanese consumers have access to Nattō year round. Nattō is a traditional food eaten at Japanese breakfast tables together with miso soup, fish, and rice.

Long, Medium and Short

There are 3 basic sizes of rice, long-grain, medium and short-grain. The size of the rice determines the cooking texture and flavor. Each rice can be used for specific dishes and recipes. 

Long-grain rice is fluffy when cooked, so it tends to separate. The grains have a firm, dry texture, and are best for side dishes, pilafs, stir-fry and salads.  Long-grain rice is also slim and lengthy, nearly four to five times longer than it is wide. This type of rice includes American long-grain white and brown rice, Basmati rice, and Jasmine rice.

Medium-grain rice is tender, moist, and stickier than long-grain rice when cooked. Shorter and wider than its long-grain counterpart, medium-grain rice is about two to three times longer than it is wide. Arborio and Valencia are medium-grain varieties used in Italian risotto. The Spanish varieties of  Arroz Negroni and Bomba rice are used in paella.

Short-grain rice is the most sticky and soft when cooked. This fat, and round  grain has an extra starch which gives it its sticky and clumpy texture. American short-grain brown rice and sushi rice are common varieties of short-grain rice.  Short-grain rice is perfect for sushi and pudding.

The Rice Festival in Italy

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Fiera del riso (Rice Fair) is the second biggest festival in Europe after the October Fest. This is the 50th anniversary which has been growing the tremendous numbers of visitors each year. It brought a half million visitors during the festival 2015. Two indoors spaces featuring different local restaurateurs hold over 12,000 visitors who choose between many different risottos, rice deserts, rice pizzas and drinks. The outdoor area was full of vendors from all across Italy. Culinary competitions encourage farms, restaurants and public in daily programs. 
A new additional venue in this year is Rice exhibition "Oryza" which curated by Davide Mantovani. It was an incredible display educating people about rice in its cultivation, culture and history.  This is great a showcase to share rice knowledge which should be continued and treasured. Great job Davide and his friends!

Exhibition Curator Davide Mantovani

Exhibition Curator Davide Mantovani

Fun Fact:
Melotti Farm/restaurant usually serves 65,000 risotto bowls during the festival. Melotti
Risotteria restaurant won the competition making the traditional local risotto.

Good Friends

Rice-fish farm is the environmentally friendly best practices. Releasing fish in the created extensive artificial wetlands (rice paddies) helps insect control and creates the ecosystem. Rice plants also provided shade, thus keeping the water cool and allowing fish to remain active even during the hottest months. Did you know fish poop is the primary source of Nitrogen in any aquaponic system? 

Companion Plant

Duckweeds could be a rice companion plant!
What the duckweeds do. They clean the water, provide bio-fertilizer, allege control, and limit mosquitoes. These are things that humans are not able to control without adding chemicals. Also, duckweeds contain high amounts of protein, more so than soy bean. Duckweeds are a good food resource in some parts of Asia for both animals and humans. Duckweeds spread quick, colonies of them could cause a problem of oxygen. But, don’t worry, other good friends working together in the water.

In Korea, we call Keguri Bap (duckweeds), means 'Bullfrog’s rice'. A lot of time bullfrogs live in the rice paddies. The duckweeds are extremely dense on the surface of the water that when they swim out of the water, their face is covered with duckweeds. So, it looks like bullfrogs are eating the duckweeds. That’s how we named it? In Korea, while the little children are eating rice and if they leave some rice on their face, the parents say ” You have bullfrog’s rice on your face”. I love the sound of word 'Keguri Bap'.

55% refined rice

These brilliant educational tools were provided from Melotti Farm in Italy. Davide Mantovani is the one of educators from Melotti Farm and created these tools. He has given wonderful classes for school groups using these tools. The two clear containers demonstrate each milling process. The photo on the right is 100% paddy rice and will separate to hull, green, bran, broken rice and rice. Each of the contents will be used differently, letting nothing to go to waste!  It is amazing to see the amount of work that goes into the 55% white rice, which mainly consumed by humans. The others are consumed by animals and used in other byproducts, Wow, I deeply appreciate rice farmers for their hard working.

White vs. Brown

People often ask; what is the difference between white rice and brown rice? They both come from the same rice grain or plant. The main difference between the two forms of rice is in the milling process. This  process affects the color and nutritional content of the rice.

When only the
hull, or outermost layer of a grain of rice is removed, the result is brown rice. When the next layers are removed, the bran layer and the germ, leaving the starchy endosperm, white rice is produced.

Brown rice and white rice have similar amounts of calories and carbohydrates. However, brown rice contains more iron and fiber.  Brown rice usually has a nuttier flavor and chewiness compared to white rice and requires a longer cooking time.



Wild rice is not a grain

Wild rice is actually an aquatic grass, not a grain, though it’s referred to as rice because it looks and cooks like all other types of rice.

Zizania aquatica or Zizania palustris (Wild rice) is a semi-aquatic grass that grows in shallow water in small lakes and slow-flowing streams that are 2 to 4 feet in depth. Cultivated wild rice is grown in less than a foot of water, but consistent water depth is essential to nurture the growing wild rice plant.  Wild rice is not directly related to Oryza sativa (Asian rice) or Oryza glaberrima (African rice)which we consume commonly now.  

photo: smartparentshealthykids.com

photo: smartparentshealthykids.com

Wild rice originated in the area of the upper Great Lakes both in the U.S. and Canada. By law, in order to preserve and protect  this species of uncultivated Minnesota wild rice ("wild" wild rice), it must be harvested and milled in the traditional Native American way by those licensed to do so.


Learning Nutrition

Need carbohydrates

"Starchy carbohydrates are a wonderful thing – they make us feel happy, satisfied and energetic, and quite simply, we need carbohydrates in our diet as they provide a large proportion of the energy we need to move our bodies, and the fuel our organs need to function. - Jamie Oliver"
 

Check his article. He will discus most common misconceptions about carbohydrates and health benefits they offer. He will answer what are carbohydrates, what carbs should we be eating and why do we need carbs? 

Structure of Rice

Awn: Tip of the rice grain, which is removed during processing
Lemma: Three protective layers of “skin” (brown and yellow) that make up 20% of the grain’s total weight.
Caryopsis: What remains of the grain after processing, which is what most of eat. It is composed mainly of starch and represents 60% of the grain’s total weight.
Aleuronic (Bran) Layer: Internal skin containing vitamins, minerals and fat.
Embryo: Each grain of rice contains an embryo, from which a new shoot will germinate. During the refining process, the embryo breaks away from the grain.

Type of Rice by Color

White rice is a refined milled grain which the husk,  germ and bran have been removed. This process prevents storage.

White rice is a refined milled grain which the husk,  germ and bran have been removed. This process prevents storage.

Brown Rice is unmilled whole grain rice and is more nutritious and flavorful than white rice.

Brown Rice is unmilled whole grain rice and is more nutritious and flavorful than white rice.

Black Rice is one of the ancient rices that  the grain was served exclusively by the Emperors of China to bring youth and longevity.

Black Rice is one of the ancient rices that  the grain was served exclusively by the Emperors of China to bring youth and longevity.

Red rice is generally unhulled or hulled rice which has more red husk.  It could refer to a wild variety of rice which has a very low grain yield, some Asian countries regard it as a weed. 

Red rice is generally unhulled or hulled rice which has more red husk.  It could refer to a wild variety of rice which has a very low grain yield, some Asian countries regard it as a weed.