Grown and cultivated on every continent except for Antarctica, everyone knows this grain. However, it is not only the most important grain for human consumption. Rice and its symbolism shape cultures, traditions and festivals worldwide.

Colored rice as message carrier

Have you heard, for example, of the impressive annual Sister Meal Festival of the Miao people, an ethnic group in South-West China? The Festival is also referred to as the oldest Valentine’s Day since it is an opportunity for young unmarried men and women to get to know each other. As part of the tradition, Miao girls pick and collect wildflowers in the mountains in order to make a natural dye for glutinous rice. These colors include pink, blue, yellow and white. In some regions, these colors represent the seasons; spring, summer, autumn and winter. Interestingly, colored rice serves as a message carrier for love on this special day. Interested men can ask for Sister Rice. If they are offered rice wrapped in leaves, the interest is mutual. On the other hand, garlic wrapped in rice is a polite and friendly rejection.

Black Rice, also known as forbidden rice, was only reserved for the emperor

In earlier times the Chinese emperor was the only person allowed to eat black rice to ensure his well-being. What makes black rice extremely special and significant is the antioxidant anthocyanin. It is also the reason for the extraordinary black-purplish color in, for example, blueberries and purple cauliflower. Apparently, Chinese black rice is slightly sweet and has a floral taste.

Another uncommon and suprising use of rice

Young love and forbidden consumption aside, perhaps one of the most curious uses for rice is in Chinese architecture from times of the Ming Dynasty. What holds the bricks of the Great Wall of China and supports the general strength and stability is extraordinary mortar including sticky rice. It seems that the use of sticky rice works like strong glue, which makes it nearly impossible for weed to grow through.