Carolina Gold Rice
One product that is local, and a revival of a historic heirloom food, is Carolina Gold Rice.
What we bought was grown locally and distributed through Charleston Specialty Foods. The distinctive yellow cloth bags packages of this rice are sold by several vendors at the market, and also are for sale at various historical venues throughout the Charleston area. As the bag explains:
"In 1685, a distressed merchant ship paid for repairs in Charleston with a small quantity 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."
So why should you pay a lot more for an heirloom variety of rice than the plain old (I won't mention any brand names) stuff you find on the supermarket shelves?
For various reasons, the cultivation of rice had slowed in the South Carolina low country, and much "Carolina Rice" is actually grown outside of the Carolinas. (2014 update - yes, one of those reasons was the freeing of the slaves after the Civil War was over. It's a fascinating story, which deserves its own blog post.) The Carolina Gold Rice Foundation is attempting a comeback for this rice, and as the bag also explains "We are proud to be South Carolina's first product made with Green-e Certified Renewable Energy."
So how can you go wrong? In one swoop you encourage the production of heritage foodstuffs, and support renewable energy and sustainable agriculture.
The rice can be ordered online or by calling 1-877-RICE-4-YOU. (and please note I am not being paid for this, or any other, endorsement I may make.)
So, how does it taste? And what is the rice like?
I would judge it as medium grain.
It's definitely distinctive, and delicious. Spouse (our family cook) made a pilaf with it. It came out fluffy, and nice.
(2014 update - it also tastes like butter has already been added to it, especially if you try the white rice, which we bought this time around.)
Have you ever eaten an heirloom rice?