The ancient Chinese first discovered the nutritional value of rice; rice production and harvesting began in China around 2500 B.C. and then spread soon thereafter throughout Asia. In ancient China, rice proved relatively easy to grow. It sustained the nutritional needs of the Chinese farmers and their families, and later served as an economic tool in trades between citizens of Asia.
After securing a place in China as an affordable, reliable staple crop, rice made its way to other parts of Asia, beginning with India and Sri Lanka. Rice planting then moved westward with the help of Greek leader Alexander the Great and his armies, who introduced rice to western Asia and Greece in 300 B.C. By the year 800 A.D., Indian harvesters used rice as an economic currency in trade with Indian merchants. Rice also appeared in Indonesia, and later made its way to Europe. Eventually, rice arrived in the United States with the growth of commerce and exploration. The first rice plantations appeared in the southern states, although Arkansas, California, Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana now produce the most rice in the nation. Rice comes in two primary varieties: white and brown. Brown rice contains more nutritional value than white rice, as its outer protective coat contains many nutrients and minerals. Rice plants grow in many places, including deserts and wetlands, and range from 2 to 6 feet tall.