Native to India and Southeast Asia, the rice plant, G. Oryza sativa, is simply a marsh grass. As the long, slim shafts grow, seeds for reproducing new grass develop. These seeds are the rice grains that we consume. If you think that growing rice is only for large paddies in faraway lands, think again. You can easily grow your own long-grain rice, even if you only have enough room for some large containers. The secret is "wet and warm."
These unusual plants can germinate and emerge through soil or water, but not both. Seeds rest on top of the soil, where a thin layer of oxygen under the water enables them to sprout. Then their little roots find the soil, and rice plants begin to grow. The water provides the additional benefit of a measure of natural weed control for the developing plants. Plant your rice from February to June, when sustainable water temperatures are above 15.6 degrees C (60 degrees F).
Fill your growing container with 15 cm (6 inches) of potting or garden soil and level it. Add 5 cm (2 inches) of water and sprinkle a small handful of uncooked store-bought long-grain rice over the soil. Use organic rice if you can find it at your supermarket. Commercial rice seed will work well also.
Place the container in the warmest spot that you have available, and provide as much direct sun as possible. Rice is a tropical and subtropical grass that loves warm, humid conditions.
Add water as necessary to keep the level at about two inches above the soil surface until the rice has grown at least 12.5 (5 inches) tall.
When the plants reach 12.5 cm (5 inches), carefully scoop the water out of the container with a cup until it is as close to soil level as possible. Keep the soil very moist but not drenched for three days.
Increase the water depth to about 10 cm (4 inches). Continue to maintain this level until the stalks curve at their tops and begin to turn golden. Your rice plants will be somewhere between 60 cm to 1.5 m (2 to 5 feet) tall and mature in 150 to 200 days, depending upon the variety.
Drain the water from the container. Allow the soil to dry out for about a week, or until the stalks have completely turned brown, when the rice will be ready to harvest.
After harvesting, cut the rice stalks, wrap them in newspapers and let them dry in a warm spot for about two weeks. Remove the grains of rice from the stalks. The "tillers," or side shoots, typically will each produce around 100 grains of rice.
Spread the grains of whole-grain rice out on a baking tray and roast at 93.3 degrees C (200 degrees F) for about an hour. Remove the hulls from the cooled rice by hand and store them in airtight containers or plastic bags.
Consider any large container that will hold 15 cm (6 inches) of soil topped with 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 inches) of water, such as an unused child's plastic pool, for growing your rice outside. Use an old fish aquarium near a warm sunny window, or even under grow lights indoors.
If you plan on storing your harvested rice for an extended length of time, it's best to choose something other than plain brown rice to grow, which doesn't store particularly well.
Tips and warnings
- Consider any large container that will hold 15 cm (6 inches) of soil topped with 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 inches) of water, such as an unused child's plastic pool, for growing your rice outside. Use an old fish aquarium near a warm sunny window, or even under grow lights indoors.