The Golden Seed

Carolina Gold Rice is the legendary food crop produced in the coastal south — the gold hulled grain that founded many a planter's fortune, enabled the distinctive African-American inspired Lowcountry cuisine, inspired a global hunger, and fathered many of the modern long grain rices bred in America during the 20th century. Yet one problem with legends is that they collect a great deal of misinformation. Famous things inspire fantasy, supposition, and downright fabrication.

Some of the myths surrounding Carolina Gold are quite extravagant: that it was the rice brought from Madagascar to Charleston in the 1690s, that slaves smuggled the grain to Carolina on the slave ships, that it was the rice that first created international demand for Carolina rice in London, that the Civil War‟s liberation of the black labor force that worked the rice fields brought about the doom of planting in the Lowcountry.

Several years ago, a broad range of scholars convened in Charleston to winnow fact from fiction— chefs, botanists, historians, anthropologists, geneticists, farmers, and art historians. The colloquy produced the first concrete body of knowledge about the grain, its agriculture, culinary employments, influence on plantation design, processing, associated designs, and commercial significance. Immediately the directors of the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation realized that the consolidation of these findings was necessary, and David S. Shields of the University of South Carolina was tasked with gathering and editing the presentations. He also composed an introduction summarizing the state of knowledge about Carolina Gold — the most salient facts of its character and history. Seen through the press by Doug Bostick, The Golden Seed, issued from the press in November 2010.

The Golden Seed supplies the first genetic description of the variety, establishes the date of its first introduction into American agriculture (1784), names its first planters, describes the development of the long grain version that would become the highest priced rice on the Parisian world market from 1846-1860, charts the African influence on cultivation schemes, maps the geography of malaria and other diseases associated with its water world, and considers how much of the rice landscape survives into the 21st century.

Only two subjects connected with rice aren't handled: the milling processing innovations and the decline and death of rice culture, because both subjects are handled in separate monographs by Richard Porcher and James Tuten. There is no more thorough, more informed introduction to the south's fabled rice available.