Malaysia: The History of Rice
The History of Rice
Rice is the most widely consumed food for a large part of the world’s population, especially in Asia. For 3.3 billion people living in Asia, rice accounts for anywhere from 35-80% of their total calorie intake. When it comes to worldwide consumption, rice accounts for one-fifth of all human caloric intake globally. This little grain is hugely important when it comes to keeping the world fed!
Throughout the years, debate has raged about exactly where rice originated. Now it’s widely accepted that rice was first planted in China, spread to Southeast Asia, was introduced to Europe via trade, and then made it to the Americas through European colonization. Even though we know the basic route that rice took to reach various parts of the world the specifics are still a bit hazy. For example, some historians believe that rice was brought to West Asia and Greece by the armies of Alexander the Great around 300 BCE.
In most parts of the world rice is an annual crop, meaning it’s only grown once per year. However, in tropical areas it can thrive as a perennial crop. Rice can be grown nearly anywhere, from dry soils to wetlands. Genetic evidence suggests that the 40,000 different varieties of rice that we have today started from one single planting over 8,000 years ago. Thanks to today’s range of environmental conditions, cultivation techniques, and crossbreeding of grains we can enjoy everything from sticky rice, to brown rice, to risotto.
Food consumption in many countries is shifting away from this starchy staple, but it’s still the primary source of nutrition for many people in Malaysia, elsewhere throughout Asia, and around the world. In many countries the availability of rice is literally the difference between being well fed and fighting starvation. Be sure to think about how important this little grain is the next time you dig into a bowl of delicious rice and beans.