MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
ABOUT BLACK RICE
Is black rice milled?
Yes, whole grain black rice is slightly milled (husked/hulled): only the outer, inedible protection layer (hull or husk) is removed while all nutrient-dense parts of the grain kernel (bran, endosperm and germ) are preserved.
Polished white rice is not a whole grain anymore: further refining fully removes the bran while parts of the endosperm and germ are removed as well. All fiber and the majority of micronutrients and phytonutrients get lost.
Why black and purple?
Similar to blueberries and red cabbage, black, purple and red rice ooze these beautiful black-purple, reddish hues thanks to anthocyanin, a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which belongs to the family of plant pigments (flavonoids).
Why is black rice brown/yellow/whitish on the inside?
In nature pigment is always located on the outer layers. This is no different for a rice grain.
Anthocyanin is stored in the bran, a layer more on the outside, whereas the endosperm, at the core of the grain, contains the macronutrients (carbs, protein) which are colored brown/whitish.
How long can black rice be stored?
Our vacuum sealed, milled black rice can easily be 'pantry' shelved for 24 months.
Our ‘BEST BEFORE DATE’ (usually on the back panel of our items) is set 12 months after milling and vacuum sealing and is only an indicator to have the item by that time removed from the store.
Our rice is milled about 6 weeks before overseas shipment; we ship small batches about 4 to 5 times a year. Remind that we often sell out of stock in the US, as we maintain low levels of inventory to ensure freshly milled rice.
How about customer services?
We are a small organization. So if you experience any issue, please contact us and we will take care of your concern personally.
Leveling the nursery, prior to seeding. At our friends' black rice farm in Doi Saket (Chiang Mai district). July 2018.
WILD RICE, THAI AND CHINESE BLACK RICE
All rice is outlined in an internationally acknowledged classification, based on genus, length-to-width ratio and location, but what it comes down to for black rice, is this:
The presence of high levels of anthocyanin is what sets red, purple and black cultivars apart from brown rice. Among these naturally pigmented varieties, nutrient profiles are (surprisingly) similar and in our view differences, even within a variety, are more likely due to seed quality, farming methods and soil/climate conditions.
Then, in Thailand we don't grow wild rice. Rice plants here are domesticated cultivars, typically short-lived. Soon after harvesting, the plant will die. We are not particularly familiar with wild rice, that's not what we do, but wild rice is usually harvested from a perennial and therefore, the process to grow and harvest rice is different. We are aware of wild rice cultivars being reseeded each year, but again it's not our expertise.
Except for some varieties in moderate climate regions in China (which are not consumed in a way we commonly eat rice), wild rice is a native North American kind of rice and belongs to a different genus (Zizania), whereas most Asian rice is domesticated and belongs to the genus Oryza and species Sativa. Therefore, Oryza sativa stands for Asian domesticated rice.
Thai black rice varieties are long grain, about 4 times as long as its width. Wild rice is way taller and thinner which results in different rice-to-water volumes and a longer cooking time. You could say that in general South Asian rice is long grain (subspecies Indica). Well known examples are Indian Basmati and Thai Jasmine rice.
Last, Chinese black rice is grown in Central Asia (subspecies Japonica), and is a group of short-mid grain cultivars. So compared to Thai black rice, their appearance is shorter and rounder.
GLUTEN-FREE vs GLUTINOUS
FIRST, ALL RICE IS GLUTEN-FREE.
Gluten is a protein mixture found in rye, wheat and barley. Its elastic properties make dough rise easily. Rice contains no gluten and is an excellent starch for anyone with gluten allergy or sensitivity such as celiac disease.
Glutinous simply is a synonym for sticky or sweet rice. Starch (carbohydrate storage in plants) is made up of amylopectin and amylose, two slightly differently linked chains of glucose. Sticky rice is particularly high in amylopectin which makes soaked and steamed glutinous rice sticky.
An example of sticky rice is our Highland Black Glutinous Rice.
ABOUT VACUUM PACKING
Rebirth Rice doesn't fumigate with inorganic chemicals (industry standard). Instead we have chosen to vacuum pack our products: vastly reducing oxygen level which not only inhibits insect infestation and microorganism growth, but also preserves fragrance and extends shelf life.
That we don't chemically fumigate is reported on the phytosanitary certificate, issued by the Thai Department of Agriculture (and exchanged with the USDA APHIS in order to enter the US). Contact us anytime to get a copy of the certificate for the batch you got your rice from (mention the date you bought our rice and we track down the according certificate).
To mitigate infestation risk, we are committed to vacuum pack soon after the rice is husked at the mill.
Our rice is vacuum sealed and packed at our own FDA registered workspace in Chiang Mai, Thailand, so we can easily provide the best possible, internal quality control.
Nevertheless, if you would experience any hatched rice, please contact us.
GROWING RICE IN THAILAND
When is rice growing season?
Rice in Thailand is being grown during the wet Monsoon (basically a regional reversal of trade winds, which brings rain to Northern Thailand from early May to mid-November). Our farmers sow Heirloom Black Rice end of August. Growing cycle is 90 days.
Do you grow GMO?
WE DO NOT USE GMO SEEDS.
We support both heirloom and (unpatented!) traditional open-pollinated rice varieties while only selecting seed saving farmers.
What's your definition of a heirloom?
Some say a variety should be around for at least 50 years, but a first generation hybrid can turn 50, theoretically even a GMO seed could (by time).
Of utmost importance is if a seed is open pollinated and over generations is able to grow true to type. This is when offspring continually shows the same characteristics as the parent plant. Such a stable seed, in our book, is a heirloom. For this to happen, seeds from the best plants need to be selected and sowed, in case of rice, for up to 10 generations.
We decided to add another condition though and only label a variety heirloom if the seeds have set and saved in a certain ecosystem for at least another 10 years after grown true to type.
An outstanding example is our Heirloom Highland Black Glutinous Rice, grown and saved as long as rice farming hill tribe families remember. Jasmine Black Rice aka Riceberry on the other hand is true to type since 2011 and has since been grown everywhere in Thailand. So we feel it’s just too early yet to call Riceberry a heirloom.
How about GMO in Thailand?
GMO crops in Thailand are common: corn, tomato, soy, papaya (and cotton) often are genetically modified.
Nevertheless, we are not aware of genetically modified rice growing in Thailand. The national rice masterplan even outlines a policy which intends to ensure Thailand's reputation as a non-GMO rice exporter.
We'll do an update if we find out otherwise.
How about organic produce in Thailand?
According to the FiBL, Thai organic production has progressed steadily since 1998 with an yearly average growth of almost 40 percent. Still, less than 1% of agricultural land in Thailand is managed organically.
Soil degradation due to conventional farming is a big hurdle to overcome: good fertile soil can take up to 3 years to build up and during the first two transition years yields can implode and as livelihood depends on agriculture, some farmers simply cannot carry this financial burden. Luckily, grassroots and academic support is rapidly growing. We know of collaborative incentives by the government and local temples to provide organic compost and fertiliser.
Meanwhile, there is a (small) movement of young Thai from Bangkok and Chiang Mai who move to the countryside and start a small organic farm.
ARSENIC AND RICE
Which heavy metals do you analyse?
WE ANALYSE ON ARSENIC, MERCURY, LEAD and CADMIUM. Results are published HERE.
Before we proceed, I'd like to mention Low heavy metals Verified, an encouraging, non-commercial initiative that has laid a self-certifying framework for food producers (due to the absence of any regulation by the FDA and the USDA). In line with the standards they have set, we reach the highest level, A+++, for all 4 heavy metals.
How about Arsenic contamination?
That said, let's focus on Arsenic (As), a natural component in the earth's crust, which is present everywhere around us. We all breathe, drink and eat arsenic in small amounts, safely.
Arsenic presents in two forms, either ORGANIC or INORGANIC and it's the latter that is a known carcinogen (with cancerous effects). Unfortunately, the situation in the US is that Arsenic in groundwater sometimes reaches critical levels. Whereas US legislation fo Arsenic levels in drinking water is enforced, for food standards there are only guidelines available from the EU and the WHO.
In 2013 the US FDA concluded, after analysing 1300 rice and rice-based food samples on total and inorganic arsenic, that the amounts of detectable inorganic arsenic were low enough to not cause any adverse health effects.
Nevertheless, Arsenic values are one of Rebirth Rice's main criteria to select rice growers and farmer cooperatives and we reassess our findings every two years.
We screen on TOTAL Arsenic (organic + inorganic) and if values exceed 0.25 mg/kg, INORGANIC Arsenic will be quantified. This reference point is based on:
Statistically Northern Thailand shows an organic-to-inorganic Arsenic ratio of 3:1. This implies that, for a value of 0.30mg/kg of TOTAL Arsenic, INORGANIC Arsenic levels can be expected to be around 0.10mg/kg.
Early 2016, the Eu set the maximum levels of INORGANIC Arsenic to 0.25mg/kg for husked brown and other pigmented rice varieties.
Also in 2016, the US FDA proposed a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 100ppb (0.10mg/kg) for INORGANIC arsenic in infant rice cereal. This is a tripled down value, compared to adults, as young children consume approximately three times more food on a bodyweight basis. Rebirth Rice has no intention to make processed rice products, certainly not infant rice cereal, but we have decided to set this value as a standard for our husked rice.