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Carolina Gold - The story of the hidden wealth of early America

Updated: Mar 27

Thanks to the work of Glenn Roberts, proprietor of Anson Mills and a president of the Carolina Gold Foundation, and many others with we now can partake of a staple that helped forge the wealth of the the Carolinas, Georgia and early America. Carolina Gold made the City of Charleston

and growers, wealthy but through the terrible toll on the enslaved.

As the story goes, in 1685, a merchant ship paid for repairs in Charleston with rice seed from Madagascar. The seed was planted in South Carolina, beginning a 200-year history as the leading rice producer in the United States. Eventually, commercial rice cultivation subsided in the Low Country because of a weak market, inadequate machinery, competition from the Gulf States and inability to rely upon free labor supply after the end of the Civil War.

The Carolina Gold Foundation's website describes Carolina Gold's revival:

  • "In the 1980s, eye surgeon Dr. Richard Schulze sourced Carolina Gold Rice from Charles N. Bollich, a researcher at the Rice Research Laboratory in Beaumont, Texas, who had seeds in his collection and grew enough to provide Schulze with 14 pounds worth to plant at his Turnbridge Plantation in Hardeeville, S.C.

  • "Merle Shepherd, an entomologist and Clemson professor emeritus who had studied rice in the Philippines, moved to the Lowcountry and soon founded the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation in 1988 to help restore and preserve the heirloom rice.

  • "Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills began growing Carolina Gold Rice for research in 1998 and today has organic fields in Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Texas."

For more information on the transmission of rice cultivation knowledge from West Africans to the plantations of Brazil, the Caribbean and the low country of the Carolinas and Georgia, check out Judith Carney's Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas. "This book," she writes, "is about rice and the origins of its cultivation in the Americas. It is in fact, a narrative of the Atlantic slave trade whose telling assists in the recovery of a significant African contribution to the agricultural history of the Americas."

I buy my Carolina Gold rice and grits from Anson Mills and Carolina Plantation. I don't quite have the land or skills for rice cultivation.


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