Report from Turnbridge Plantation

originally published in the rice paper newsletter, 2009

In the story of the repatriation of Gold Seed to its homeland in the watercourses of South Carolina and Georgia, no family is more important that the Schulzes of Turnbridge Plantation. Richard Schulze, Sr., the patriarch of Carolina Gold Rice Planters, revived both the grain and its fame in the 1980s. For the last thirteen years, his son, Richard Schulze, Jr., has presided over the plantings at Turnbridge. In autumn 2008, the Rice Paper thought it time to catch up with Richard Jr. to learn the latest about the longest continuously planted fields in the Lowcoun- try: “In 2007, I rested the fields. My father had started planting rice in 1985; I moved to Turnbridge in 1995, and rice was planted every year through 2006. I felt that it was time for rotation, so we planted corn in the fields in 2007. This year we planted only one 6 acre field and harvested this week about 130 bushels of rice (5 to 6 thousand pounds). I'll send it to Campbell Coxe to have it processed for seed, reserving a small amount to mill ourselves. Our yield was poor because 30% of the rice lodged during a tropical storm. We didn't have too much trouble with birds this year, although I understand that other folks did. Re soil replenish- ment, we periodically have the soil tested and in the past have had to lime the fields. Typically we use fertilizers and nitrogen. Two years ago we planted one field of organic rice using organic manure from a specialty shop in (I think) Tennessee. We grew a large field of organic weeds.” Despite the setbacks of this fallow year, Richard Schulze, Jr., regards his work at Turnbridge successful and gratifying. He takes pride in having increased crop productivity and solving the problem of harvesting efficiently. “I'm proud to say that in the years I've been plant- ing the rice we have had our best yields ever and have solved our harvesting problems by purchasing a combine.” On the horizon, he worries about the costs of transporting crop to Campbell Coxe’s mill, particularly if gas prices rise to the levels of August 2008.

Richard Schulze, Jr., touches upon a problem that has deviled rice planters since the early nineteenth century — how to replenish the vitality of rice fields. (See the letter of Joshua John Ward about this subject in the Historical Documents section of the Rice Paper.) We don’t doubt the wisdom of rotating crops on the fields. As early as the 1830s, planters grasped that planting other grains, field peas, or grass in the impoundment fields restored nutriments to the soil. Invariably rotation was accompanied by manuring, and it is on the question of whether to resort to petroleum based chemical manures or green and animal manures that the great divide between industrial and organic agriculture opens wide. Richard Jr.’s pungent report on his experiment with organic rice farming shows unequivocally where he stands on the matter.

It is said, that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. How does the Carolina Gold rice from Turnbridge taste? A bag of current crop rice was provided to the Rice Paper for sampling. We prepared it two ways: plain boiled rice with salt and in hoppin’ john with some sea island peas and Caw Caw Creek ham for seasoning. Prior to the test we kept the rice in the freezer to preserve its quality. Three traditional Columbia, S.C. rice cooks did the tasting. Observations: out of the bag the Turnbridge rice, though just a shade smaller than the standard 3/ 8ths inch length of milled Carolina God, had the pearly, translucent endosperm of classic CG. It also has the slight malty odor of fresh rice. When boiled,

it absorbed liquid readily, and after sitting, it had good grain separation and the slightly sticky surface that betokens rice that has not gone stale or dry. It was for the most part odorless. Mouth feel was pre- cisely what one looks for, mildly starchy, mellow, and with a lingering taste that faintly echoes hazel- nuts. It entirely lacked bitterness, the fruit taste that afflicts some south-Asian aromatic rices, or the bland pastiness that characterizes some commercial long grain white rices milled for long stays on the grocery shelf. The Turnbridge rice displayed its qualities more pronouncedly when married to field peas and pork. It has been said that the great virtue of Carolina Gold is its unrivaled capacity to marry with other flavors in one pot stews, perloos, and pilafs. Tunbridge retains its textual clarity while serving as a background for the sharper tastes of field peas or salty ham. The three tastes gave it a decided thumbs up as a complement to other ingredients. In sum, a fine rice. One understands the hubbub when Richard Schulze, Sr., began distributing the first quantities of Carolina Gold to his friends in the late 1980s.