Why Are There Green Grains In Brown Rice?

And is it safe to eat?

brown rice with green rice pieces

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Green bananas and green potatoes aren't OK for the dinner table, but what about green rice? Learn about why this grain is such a vibrant shade, if it’s safe to eat, and what to look out for to keep your rice from going bad.

What Is Green Rice?

Green rice is simply brown rice that hasn’t fully matured.

When rice ripens, the bran will turn a light brown color, but if it hasn’t had a chance to age enough, the bran will remain green.

Bryce Lundberg, vice president of agriculture at Lundberg Family Farms, says that the main factor in harvesting rice before it’s fully mature has to do with weather. Late planting can happen in the spring due to wet weather, shares Lundberg, which means less time for the plants to fully mature. Or if a fall is particularly rainy, farmers have to assess the right time to harvest.

"You feel some pressure to say there’s a dry day, the rice isn’t exactly as ripe as I’d like it to be, but winter is setting in and there’s not going to be that many more ripening days, so it’s time to harvest," says Lundberg.

Is Green Rice Safe to Eat?

Rice with green bran is perfectly safe to eat.

"Having green rice in your brown rice is really a natural occurrence," says Lundberg, "Rice doesn’t mature 100 percent all at the same time. So there’s usually some green kernels in with the brown kernels, and they are safe to eat." Green rice cooks up the same way as brown rice and has a slightly sweeter taste.

You won’t find white rice containing any green kernels, however. Since keeping the bran is what distinguishes brown rice from white, any green exterior would be removed during the milling process to produce white rice.

Is Green Rice Nutritionally Different Than Brown Rice?

There isn't much research about the nutrition of under-ripened rice with green bran. Though after decades of fielding questions from customers concerning the occasional green rice in their bag, the team at Lundberg Family Farms did some research themselves, publishing a nutritional analysis in their April 1986 newsletter "The Rice Paper."

This comparison between organic short-grain brown rice and organic short-grain green rice found that the green had more protein, riboflavin, and calories, while also containing less fat, thiamin, and niacin. All in all, this minimal research indicates the two are still extremely similar in their nutritional make up.

What Are Some Warning Signs Your Rice Has Gone Bad?

While green rice isn’t an indicator that your rice is bad, there are some other warning signs to look out for. We recommend tossing any rice that falls into these categories.

  • Scent: Smell your rice. It should either be odorless or have a fresh grain scent. If there are any hints of a sour or musty smell, the rice has gone rancid.
  • Appearance: Rice kernels should be individual and easy to scoop. If the rice is clumped together, it has previously been exposed to moisture through lack of proper processing or storage. This can also lead to mold, so look out for colorful spores on your rice.
  • Texture: How your rice is processed can have effects on the long-term quality. Avoid any rice that has obvious scratches and scuffs. "You’d like to see nice, smooth kernels," says Lundberg. "Scratching the bran causes those oils to ooze out, and it will go rancid quicker."
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