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Long grain rice is usually described as rice that is about four or five times as long as it is wide. Typical length measurements for a single grain vary between about 0.27 to 0.35 inch (7 to 9 millimeters). Most of the long grain types grown today were developed from the rice type Oryza sativa var. indica, which produced the famous Indian basmati rice.
Though likely first cultivated in and around India, this rice is used in most of Asia. Many people are likely to assume that China and Japan use only shorter grain rice, but this is not the case. Though shorter grain is more glutinous and may make up desserts in the form of dishes like sticky rice in China, long grain rice may be preferred for other meals.
Even though rice was not widely grown in Europe, colonists in the New World quickly found that the temperatures in areas like South Carolina were perfectly adapted for producing this grain. By the 17th century, many American farmers grew rice as a principle part of their diets and as a valuable export. Since these first farms in the Americas, many varieties of rice have been developed. Typically, they are all sold as long grain rice unless a shopper is specifically purchasing basmati rice.
Many cooks cite the advantages to using long grain as opposed to short grain rice types. The longer grain, when cooked properly, tends to be much fluffier and less sticky. It produces a “drier” rice, which means that the grains are easily separated. Due to lower gluten, flour made from this cereal may be used as a substitute for people on low gluten or gluten free diets.
People who are fans of basmati and other long grain rice styles also argue that the rice is more flavorful than shorter grain versions. Basmati, especially, is celebrated for its nutlike flavor. Degree of flavor in other American longer grained rice will vary, however. Brown rice, which goes through less processing and retains part of the germ and part of the husk, is generally considered more flavorful. Some people prefer white rice, though, because it has less flavor and becomes a great palette for many different sauces. Many argue that the only significant difference between white and brown rice is the processing.
Despite belief to the contrary, rice tends to be pretty easy to cook. The longer varieties tend to be boiled in a water-to-rice ratio of two parts to one. Water is brought to a boil, the rice is added, and the heat is turned down to low for about 45 minutes. There are also specialty rice varieties that take less time to cook, though they may overcook more easily.
@ Amphibious54- I would like to point out the fact that there are some glutinous types of long grain rice. Some cooks prize jasmine rice because it is a flavorful and aromatic long grain rice, but it has some of the glutinous properties of medium and short grained rice.
Cooks can use jasmine rice as a substitute for Basmati rice, and they can use it in Paella and Spanish rice dishes. Chefs like to use Jasmine rice as well because it can hold its shape when being plated, and it has a nice sounding name (looks great on a menu).
People often assume that wild rice is a type of long grain rice. This is a misnomer. In fact, wild rice is a grain from one of four species of aquatic grass. Of these four species, one is native to China while the other three are native to North America. Although wild rice and true rice are not the same, wild rice and their long grain rice cousins are both gluten free.
Wild rice harvested around the great lakes and in the Boreal Forests of Canada is still harvested in a traditional fashion. Rice gatherers use sticks to brush the grain off the stalks right into their canoe. This type of harvesting does not involve killing the plant, and since wild rice is a perennial, harvesters can return to the same area year after year. This laborious process does make traditionally harvested wild rice about five times more expensive than your average long grain rice.