By Shelly Detwiler
On a Midwest farm surrounded by cornfields, it was a rare occurrence when rice graced our supper table. I loved and gobbled potatoes, baked, frenched, casseroled, scalloped and hashed. Years later as a young dietitian in South Carolina listening to my patient’s eating habits, I learned that rice trumps potatoes in the South (with the exception of sweet potatoes that is). To blow my ever-loving mind, My boys LOVE rice! This just seems cra-cra for this potato lovin’ mama. Rice to potatoes was like the winners and losers. That changed last winter on a cold morning visit to Beaufort Farmers’ Market with a purchase of Rollen’s Raw Grain Charleston Gold rice.
I had stumbled upon some heirloom varieties of rice from where it had all begun. The story goes that rice was introduced to the Americas through Charleston, SC in the very late 1600s. Being the low country climate and close to the rise and fall of tides created a perfect growing location for rice. Demand for rice began and labor became an issue as it always is in production agriculture. The labor issues were solved then, with the enslaved people of West Africa. These West Africans were the gurus of the time about rice production and of course the experts at eating it too, in many one pot meals. This low country coastal region from the northern South Carolina border to the Florida/Georgia line became the rice coast between 1720s to the early 1860s.
Today per USRice.com American rice farmers produce around 20 billion pounds of rice in the top six rice producing states of Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas. The U.S. consumes 10 billion pounds with half being exported. Like Sushi? 95% of all U.S. Sushi uses U.S. grown rice! It’s a known fact that water is important in agriculture but the water in rice production is a key factor. Irrigation methods vary from the traditional “flooding” the field 2 to 4 inches over the entire growing season to drip and overhead irrigation. Innovations over the last 30 years have allowed rice farmers to reduce the amount of water needed to grow rice by 52%. Incredible!
Rice today has hit the big time with all kinds of tik tok and Instagram videos making rice bowls, stir frys, and variations of sushi commonality. Rice is packed full of 15 essential nutrients. Brown rice provides all that wholegrain goodness. Meals with rice keep you feeling full and satisfied. A recent study even shows people that eat rice are less likely to be overweight, reduced blood pressure, reduced waist circumference and metabolic syndrome. Guess it’s time to pile on the rice at the Detwilers!
The long-gone Carolina and Charleston Gold rice that made the trek back to the Buckeye state had flavor out of this world! Breaking news to me was that Rollens Raw Grains opened up a brick and mortar this April in Hardeeville, SC. (www.rollensrawgrains.com). Next time you are in the Hilton Head and Savannah area, you should stop by. I can’t wait to head back to the low country and fill up the larder. Next time I’ll buy a bigger bag. Maybe two.
Eat well and Healthy!