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  • Writer's pictureCari Mackey

Rice - The most common food and how it's grown in Panama.

Updated: Apr 24, 2023

If you think planning for your upcoming holiday feasts with friends and family is a lot to take on, consider what it would take to feed half the world - 4 billion people. No big deal, it's just one thing: rice. Considering here in Panama the average person eats 163 lbs/74 kg per year, that's a heavy load. How many types of rice can you name; white, brown, basmati, sushi, etc. but did you know there's actually more than 120,000 varieties?

Here in Panama, in our area in particular, about 17% of the rice is grown for the country so we have a lot of rice fields. When the fields are green like the photo above there's no denying that's beautiful but what you don't see are the trees that were once there, the monkeys, the birds, and all that is magical about the jungles here. I know, I know, I am, as are many, especially your lungs; obsessed with trees.

But nothing is perfect so for today, we're just going to focus on rice. Exciting right? Well, I sure didn't know anything about it before living in Panama and not much more until writing this to you so, there's a lot to learn about the most common food we share around this beautiful planet. I'm going to narrow it down and keep it simple like, what's the difference between white and brown rice? Take a look at the diagram below. Essentially the removal of the chaff, and the two layers of bran during the processing of brown rice leaves you with white rice. If you want to dive a bit deeper go here.

Rice is planted in September at the height of the rains, given lots of fertilizers then harvested at the end of December and January when the sun dries up the fields.

The traditional way to prepare the rice is to harvest it with a machete, dry the seeds in the sun, then place them in a pilón de arroz, then you bash it with a mano de pilón to remove the husk and you have rice. This is still how many households do it and it's cool to watch for sure because from there you get one of the best dishes of Panama - arroz con pollo. Yum.

This is a traditional Panamanian dish that is made to share with friends and families traditionally for special events. We consider you coming to stay with us one of those special times so, we would love to make this for you when you come visit us some day. But for now, let this photo be one of the many reasons you have us on your short list of travel destinations.

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