The Mysterious Barrel of Gold

“The amount of farmers that grow Carolina Gold Rice in South Carolina I can count on two hands.” – Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills

One of the most famous legends of the Lowcountry tells the story of how Carolina Gold Rice was introduced to South Carolina. It goes something like this:
In 1685, a distressed merchant ship paid for repairs in Charleston with a single barrel of rice seed from Madagascar. Dr. Henry Woodward planted the seed in South Carolina, beginning the state’s 200 year history as the leading rice producer in the United States. 

We know today that rice was grown in the Carolina Colony prior to 1685, and the evidence seems to point towards the introduction of Carolina Gold rice only after the American Revolution. Whichever point of view you take, one thing that pretty much everyone agrees upon is the superior flavor of the rice.

It doesn’t take a historic walking food tour of Charleston to see just how much money was made off the lives of the enslaved. But once the War Between the States ended in 1865, production of the rice slowed, falling off dramatically in 1912 when a strong hurricane flooded the few remaining rice fields with salt water. Then, in 1926, it ceased production altogether- poof! gone.

But then in 1986, Dr. Richard Schulze, a Savannah eye surgeon, was given 14 pounds of Carolina Gold Rice seed and began growing it out. My good friend John Martin Taylor has detailed in the New York Times how small amounts were made available for sale as it returned from the brink. Then chefs heard about it and wanted to taste it, to cook it. Thus began the real restoration of Carolina Gold Rice.

Today, chefs all over seek out Carolina Gold Rice seek it out via SC farms. While availability of the rice seems consistent, the good work of the CGRF continues in its efforts to restore the traditional flavors of the coastal South.

Have you tasted the difference of REAL Carolina Gold Rice first hand? Do you know the chefs’ secret to perfect rice, every time? Want to learn more about the history of Carolina Gold Rice Culture in the Lowcountry?
Join us for an Undiscovered Charleston experience and taste the difference of South Carolina’s forgotten flavors!

On Friday, 5/3, the Spring meeting of the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation takes place in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. Dedicated to the preservation of Carolina Gold Rice and the crops grown in association, the CGRF is working hard to restore the forgotten flavors of South Carolina to our tables. Here’s the embedded event page- it’s free and open to the public, but the event is ticketed, so be sure to sign up, or simply join us on a tour!

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