Where To Find Carolina Gold Rice?

A Sorrowful and Hidden Seed – True Carolina Gold was originally the most popular kind of rice planted in the United States and the country’s first commercial rice variety. Numerous tens of thousands of pounds of it were shipped to France, England, and Asia.

  • It was grown on roughly 100,000 acres in the South in 1820.
  • Rice shaped the plantation culture of the coastal regions of South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina, as well as their cuisines and businesses.
  • The negative aspect is, of course, that the tremendous wealth it generated for its farmers and the city of Charleston was created on the tormented backs of slaves.

The success of Carolina Gold only made matters worse by raising the demand for slaves from the so-called Rice Coast of western Africa, who understood how to produce and harvest rice better than anybody else. And while other varieties of rice were produced in the region by the middle of the 18th century, Carolina Gold reigned supreme.

Vicky Wasik Carolina Gold, or what was originally known as “golden seed” rice, reportedly landed at the harbor of Charleston for the first time in 1685, when the captain of a commercial ship paid for repairs with rice seed from Madagascar. Soon after, a doctor named Dr. Henry Woodward planted some in his marshes and was pleased not just by its flavor, but also by its towering, golden stalks.

(A 1988 New York Times story described them as “a gracefully formed, five-foot-tall grass with nearly 200 golden grains grouped at the apex of each stem.”) However, like with many culinary histories, the truth is a bit more convoluted. In reality, despite the historical renown and glory of Carolina Gold, we know remarkably little about how and why it came in South Carolina.

Shields argues in his book that while genetic evidence suggests that the rice originated in South Asia, it is unknown whether it arrived directly from Indonesia, or indirectly through Madagascar, West Africa, or even Europe. What we do know, according to Shields, is that it flourished as America’s principal rice crop until the end of slavery and a series of hurricanes devastated many of South Carolina’s rice plantations during the Civil War.

According to the same 1988 New York Times article noted before, the introduction of different strains of rice into places where harvesting technology too heavy for Carolina’s muddy fields bested the low country’s manual labor caused the demise of rice farming in South Carolina.

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At that time, the majority of America’s rice production relocated to Louisiana, Texas, and even California, where an influx of Chinese immigrants hunting for gold produced a massive demand for the commodity. “However, rice breeders paid tribute to the strain by making it a parent strain of the new higher-yield and shorter stock kinds developed for industrial-scale cultivation.” In the 1940s, pure Carolina Gold was nearly extinct due to its offspring’s superior performance.

Still, the rice lived on in the recollections of many Lowcountry families and in several community cookbooks decades later. “Because it was such a famous rice and had been important to the cuisine of the southern Atlantic coast, it has never faded from cultural memory,” says Shields.

Where is the rice for Carolina Gold grown?

The Hunter of Ducks – Dr. Richard Schulze, an optometrist in Savannah, Georgia, was one of those southerners who read all the praise for rice-fed ducks. In the mid-1980s, the ardent waterfowl hunter in South Carolina decided to plant rice in the ponds of his vacation home.

As a skilled researcher, the doctor became intrigued by the Carolina Gold he had read so much about. And he quickly learned that the original plant’s seed was still being stored at the Rice Research Institute of the USDA in Texas. Following Schulze’s enquiry with the USDA, an agronomic named Richard Bollock, who shared his interest in the plant, cultivated the seed for him and sent him 14 pounds of it, which he then planted.

In the spring of the following year, the doctor gathered 64 pounds; by 1988, he had harvested 10,000 pounds. Instead of selling the rice on the open market, Schulze donated it to the Savannah Association for the Blind, which then sold it to maintain its operations.

Glenn Roberts began working with Merle Shepard of Clemson University and a group of food scientists to develop a better, more disease-resistant type of Carolina Gold rice after being impressed by Schulze’s accomplishment and desiring to make the rice more widely available. Since 1998, they have been cultivating organic rice in South and North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas.

Near the meanwhile, Carolina Plantation Rice cultivates Carolina Gold on a historic plantation in Waccamaw, South Carolina. Vicky Wasik The Carolina Gold Rice Foundation, founded in 2004 by Roberts, Shields, and others to enhance the breeding and quality of Carolina Gold, supports the efforts of all Carolina Gold producers.