The history of rice in America began in 1685, when a damaged trade ship sailing from Africa put into Charlestown for repairs. The ships Captain provided a small quantity of rice to a citizen of Charlestown who began planting this new type of crop. The rice industry would soon develop into South Carolina’s largest cash crop which was grown extensively throughout the Charleston and Lowcountry areas for over 200 years. The rice brought great wealth to many planters and merchants of the Lowcountry. Rice was exported from Charleston and surrounding areas to markets throughout Europe and Asia. After the Civil War, Lowcountry rice cultivation declined significantly due to labor costs, hurricanes, increased competition and economics. By the early 1900’s, commercial rice cultivation had ceased in the Lowcountry and the heirloom Carolina Gold Rice, for what the area had grown and became known for, had all but disappeared.
In the mid 1990s, some of the Carolina Gold Rice seed stock was located and later planted. Heirloom Carolina Gold Rice has now reemerged and is now grown in limited quantities in South Carolina. It is highly valued by chefs and consumers alike for this high quality heirloom rice.