Thursday, April 23, 2009

Rice types in Europe

In relation to the last posting, I'm still doing research on this topic but would like to introduce it at this time.

The type of rice grown in Europe since medieval times -- like the paella of Valencia and the arborio of the Po Valley in Italy -- are of the Japonica variety. Rice agriculture in Spain as previously mentioned began possibly as early as the 8th century and definitely existed already by the 10th century. Rice was introduced into Italy probably in the 15th century or earlier, possibly from Spain.

Although I know of no studies yet that have investigated the types of rice used in medieval Europe, the general type can be ascertained by rice dishes traditional in the areas involved. Paella, which comes from the Moorish word for "leftover" was a dish made by mixing rice with other leftover foods, and thus dates from Muslim times. It always involved sticky, short to medium grain rice i.e., Japonica types. In the same sense, risotto also involves a short to medium grain sticky rice that has the ability to absorb liquid and release starch into the dish, a quality not found with long grain varieties.

Risotto (via Wikipedia)

In Egypt, while both Indica and Japonica varieties are now raised, the evidence points to Japonica as the older type.

Also, we can surmise by the practices used from the Shatt al-Arab to Valencia since medieval times that the rice varieties had to be planted entirely in wet fields -- something that is a requirement for Japonica but not Indica.

Paul Kekai Manansala