Well rice, of course! And it's time to celebrate the end of harvesting and the nutritional value of grain with the 22nd annual Rice Tasting Luncheon.
The luncheon will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at Delta State University’s Walter Sillers Coliseum.
Tickets for the luncheon are $5 at the door, or they can be purchased at Delta-area Extension offices.
At the event, visitors are invited to sample dishes made by individuals and restaurants that range from appetizers to entrees and desserts.
“This event is a way to celebrate and promote the production of rice,” said Laura Giaccaglia, Bolivar County Extension director.
Giaccaglia added as many as 2,000 people come from Mississippi and surrounding states for the event sponsored by Delta Rice Promotions.
"Each year, volunteers from all areas of the rice industry, strive to educate and promote the great commodity of rice," said Candy Davis with Delta Rice Promotions. "In September — National Rice Month — we try to really get the word our to our home base, the Mississippi Delta, and beyond about the wonderful benefits of rice."
Rice is a staple food for much of the world, and Giaccaglia praised its health benefits.
“Rice is gluten-free and the least allergenic of all the grains,” she said. “It is sodium- and cholesterol-free, has no trans fats or saturated fats, and it contains more than 15 different vitamins and minerals. It is an energy food that supplies carbohydrates to fuel physical activity, and it can even help improve our moods.”
This year's rice crop may approach the record set in 2007 of 160 bushels an acre.
Nathan Buehring, rice specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said September’s weather was nearly ideal for rice harvest.
“Isaac slowed us down and put a little bit of rice on the ground that was ready to harvest, but overall, the harvest season has gone pretty well,” he said.
Mississippi planted only 125,000 acres of rice in 2012 and dropped to No. 5 nationally in rice production, behind Arkansas, California, Louisiana and Missouri. Texas came in at No. 6.
On Sept. 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated the state’s crop was 71 percent harvested. Buehring estimated it had risen to about 85 percent complete in the following week.
Even though rice comes in behind soybeans, corn and cotton in value to Mississippi producers, it is still a significant crop.
“Rice is an important crop in Mississippi because a lot of jobs are tied to it,” Buehring said. “More importantly, it’s a good rotational crop with soybeans. A lot of our heavier ground is not as suitable for corn or cotton, but it can be used for rice production.”
Rice’s acres came up short this year because market prices favored soybeans and corn. Rice is irrigated by flooding the field, so the drought that has ravaged the Midwest has had little effect on rice.
John Michael Riley, Extension agricultural economist, said rice prices have been falling since mid-August, when U.S. yields were reported to be larger than initially expected.
“More importantly, a near-record level of global production has kept prices in check,” Riley said. “Rough rice prices have fallen from about $16 per hundredweight about one month ago to the current level of about $14.80 per hundredweight.”