Carolina Gold: Reloaded

Written by Glenn Roberts

Originally Published in The Rice Paper Newsletter, Spring 2011


Rice returned to one of Charleston's oldest farms last fall — straight, verdant, and proud. Charleston Gold Rice spanning a 30-acre field with an abundance of ripening grain in late fall that emitted the famous gold halo above the field on crystal clear days at sunset. The field is just across the road from Middleburg House, one of the South's oldest homes quietly keeping watch as it has since the late 1600s on a gentle hill overlooking the Cooper River. It is fitting that the first large field of Charleston Gold Rice was tested in this historic setting. The rice field originally belonged to the famed Lucas family, whose real estate interests in London at one point in the early 19th century surpassed that of the royal family. All of us at the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation wish to thank Andrew Arnold and the Hill family for their support during this groundbreaking trial.

Our own Campbell Coxe, owner of Carolina Plantation Rice, was wildly successful with a second production field trial of Charleston Gold Rice on Plumfield Plantation on the Pee Dee River near Darlington, South Carolina as well. We wish to thank Campbell Coxe, Dr. Anna McClung, and Dr. Chris Deren for their support of this trial.

As Charleston Gold becomes a sensation around the USA, Dr. David Shields, Chairman of The Carolina Gold Rice Foundation, and I would like to make certain that Dr. Merle Shepard, Dr. Gurdev Khush, and Dr. Anna McClung are credited for their vision, diligence, and continuing support of this rice in its development over the last decade and a half. It is truly rare that history and modern science intersect with such elegance in today‟s culinary world. Stay tuned for many, many stories from national and international media on the odyssey of Charleston Gold later in 2011.

Elsewhere, rice trials continued on Edisto Island, Cherokee Tract in Charleston, an Italian Bay system field fed by four springs in Grays, South Carolina, Cumberland Island off the coast of Southern Georgia, as far upland as Virginia and inland to Morganton, NC and many other places. Of special note: The Carolina Gold Rice Foundation would like to thank Landon Thorne, James Mixson, and Pinckney Mikell for their support and generosity in their efforts to further rice research in South Carolina.

All of us at the CGRF realized this fact late in 2010: Dr. Shepard, Dr. Shields, and yours truly are thrilled to confess that for the first time since the inception of the CGRF, we have heard about so many new fields of Carolina Gold Rice across the USA that we have not been able to track their progress first hand. Of note, Baker Hierloom Seeds and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange have begun Carolina Gold Rice seed production and distribution in earnest.

The 2010 Carolina Gold Rice and Charleston Gold Rice trials supported by the CGRF addressed questions about fertility, salting, water resources, watershed buffering, foreign variety suppression, flavor development, cooking characteristics, and more. The agronomic portion of these studies were also replicated at Texas Rice Improvement Association in Beaumont, Texas, and The Dale Bumpers Institute in Stuutgart, Arkansas.

Dr. Shields and I are particularly grateful for the many artisan bakers experimenting with modern takes on Colonial and Antebellum era rice breads n 2010. Dr. Shields and I have been known to share a loaf standing in various parking lots after lectures while discussing the impending return of our staple rice breads. Both of us are avid rice bread bakers. Artisan bakers, we salute you and hope you speed to the market with your new rice breads.

Last and most important, the Board of Directors of the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation would like to express their gratitude for the many passionate contributors to our mission throughout 2010.

Here's to Dr. Merle Shepard and his colleagues — may their new Charleston Gold Rice be as successful as its iconic golden parent.