6th Grade - Social Studies

LESSON PROBLEM: Geography: What are some varieties of rice grown in different regions of the world?


Regional Varieties of Rice

Rice grows in an estimated 40,000 varieties, but because of the different growing conditions such as rainfall, soil type, temperature, and the length of day (hours of sunlight), different varieties of rice grow best in different areas in the world. Rice grows on every continent except Antarctica, so we find the "geography" of rice to be as varied as the different peoples of the world. Out of this comes the regional taste preferences and the different eating patterns of the people who grow it. Generally speaking, in countries closer to the equator, long grain rice will be the prominent rice grown. Consequently, the peoples of Southeast Asia eat more long grain rice. In the more northern countries of Korea and Japan, the medium grain and short grain varieties are more prominent. The temperate areas of Europe and California primarily grow medium grain rices. The United States is fortunate to have many different growing conditions that are suited to rice. This, coupled with the technology used by U.S. rice farmers, is why the United States is able to successfully grow a wide assortment of different varieties of rice.

Basmati rice is a long grain, aromatic rice known for its popcorn like aroma and a flavor of roasted nuts. The word "basmati" means "queen of fragrance." It is grown in the Punjab regions of India and Pakistan. This rice is usually more costly than other rice because it is prized for its aroma and taste. Unlike other rice, when cooked, basmati rice swells only lengthwise, elongating three times its length. The rice kernels are very dry and fluffy and each kernel is individually separate.

Jasmine rice, also known as Thai Fragrant rice, is grown mainly in Thailand and is another aromatic rice. Like basmati it is said to have a popcorn or nutlike aroma and a delicate taste. But unlike basmati, when cooked, the kernels are more moist and cling together. This rice is popular Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries, but also known and eaten throughout the world.

Arborio rice is a medium grain variety of rice grown originally in the Po Valley of Italy. It is popular with Italians for use in risotto dishes. Arborio has a distinctive big kernel with a chalky white center. This rice can absorb five times its weight in liquid when cooked, and is also know for its ability to absorb flavors. The kernels have a creamy consistency with a firm center that make it popular not just with Italians, but all over the world.

Glutinous (sweet or waxy) rice is easily identified because the entire uncooked grain is an opaque white. When cooked, this rice becomes very sticky and the kernels loose their shape. When cooked, this very soft, sticky rice is good for making the dough for rice dumplings and rice cakes, or mochi. Mochi is a ceremonial rice cake which is made by pounding cooked glutinous rice so that it can be molded into different shapes. "Glutinous" rice is a misnomer (calling something by a wrong name) because rice does not contain gluten (a type of protein). A high amount of a certain starch - amylopectin - is what causes this rice to become so sticky when cooked.

Wild rice is another misnamed plant -- it is not really rice at all, but a different kind of grass that is indigenous to North America. It grows in the cold, shallows of some North American lakes. Native Americans harvested and parched it for eating. Wild rice has long, black, shiny grains and a strong flavor. It is still harvested in Minnesota, and is also grown commercially in California.

These are only a very few of the regional varieties of rice that people all over the world use, both as a food staple and for nutritious variety in their diets. These special varieties may have originated in certain regions of the world, but many of them are now grown in the United States.


Ask a parent or caregiver to take you to a specialty foods store and see if you can find the regional varieties of rice described in this lesson. If you have permission, buy one variety and cook it. Does it smell good? Taste good? How is it different from the rice you usually eat? Write a report that details your findings.


Pick one variety of rice that you have learned about. Research it using the World Wide Web. Write a short paragraph (3-5 sentences) on why you think this variety is the "best rice in the world."


  • aromatic
  • elongate
  • gluten
  • glutinous
  • misnomer
  • parched
  • Punjab
  • amylopectin
  • indigenous

Click here to play Rice Rampage!
Baldo is actually a type of specialty rice grown right here in the U.S. Other types include basmati, jasmine and arborio.
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