Carolina Gold Rice: The Ebb and Flow History of a Lowcountry Cash Crop

Article excerpt

Carolina Gold Rice: The Ebb and Flow History of a Lowcountry Cash Crop. By Richard Schulze. (Charleston, S.C.: History Press, 2005. Pp. 128; $19.99, cloth.)

Richard Schulze is well known in South Carolina as the present-day plantation owner who spearheaded the resurrection of Carolina Gold rice in the grain's former lowcountry domain. In this succinct book, Schulze offers the general reader an introduction to the "ebb and flow" of Carolina Gold rice's fortunes on the Atlantic Coast and an account of his efforts to bring it back as an heirloom grain and gourmet food.

To his credit, Schulze is clearly familiar with the historical literature on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century lowcountry rice culture. While the book does not include citations, the first section of Carolina Gold Rice provides a conversational history of rice culture from its beginnings in the 1680s to the end of commercial growing after World War I.

The heart of this book, though, is Schulze's own efforts to grow Carolina Gold on Turnbridge Plantation, which is located on the Wright River in Jasper County. Duck hunting lured the Savannah ophthalmologist to buy the old rice lands. From a desire to have his land teem with waterfowl, he "became convinced that rice growing in the fields would be the magic ingredient to attract ducks, just as historical accounts of the sport suggested. On the strength of this hypothesis, I decided to grow rice" (p. 68).

The usual frustrations of the farmer come through in Schulze's account: uncooperative weather, physical challenges, heat, insects, birds, and balky equipment all added to the obstacles in this endeavor. Worst of all was harvesting, which "never . . . went off without a hitch and some have been such disasters that we were barely able to recover enough seed to plant the following years" (pp. 106-107). In contrast, milling the rice, done courtesy of a late-nineteenth-century huiler that he tracked down at another plantation and adapted with an electric motor, he found to be "relaxing and pleasant" (p. …