Acadiana, Cajun, Charleston, Civil War, Coffee House, Gravy, Gumbo, jambalaya, Levees, Louisiana, Louisiana rice, Madagascar, Mississippi River, New Orleans, Rice, rice cultivation, rice fields, roller mills, SC, Slavery, South Carolina, steam-powred pumps, Sugarcane, The Cabin Restaurant, The Cajun Village, United States
It’s almost harvest season for rice here in Louisiana, and even though I am located in the heart of Louisiana’s sugarcane country, we still have a little bit of rice on hand at The Cabin Restaurant. And as you can see in the picture above, our little bit of rice is ready to be harvested!
The first recorded effort at rice cultivation in the United States was conducted by Dr. Henry Woodward of Charleston, S.C., in 1685. Dr. Woodward obtained the rice seed from Captain John Thurber, who had sailed his ship to Charleston from the island of Madagascar. The production of rice spread rapidly in this area, and by 1695, rice was being used for the payments of rents to the British Proprietors. Rice did not become prominent in Louisiana until several decades later in the late 1700’s.
Several factors changed the face of U.S. rice production in the mid 1800s. The introduction of steam power allowed for steam-powered pumps, which assisted the development of rice production along the Mississippi River in Louisiana. Water was pumped over levees into rice fields. Roller mills that had been first developed for use with wheat were adapted for use with rice. After 1850, a great deal of production developed along the Mississippi River, and New Orleans rapidly became the new center of rice milling and marketing activities. Events during this time – the Civil War, the end of slavery and the lack of available capital – caused serious problems for the U.S. rice industry between 1865 and 1880. Rice production along the East Coast declined rapidly. Most production during this period was on small areas along the Mississippi River, and these fields were often threatened by eroding levees and periodic floods.
In Louisiana, rice is normally grow medium or long grain rice. Planting usually begins in late March to mid-April, depending on the weather conditions (usually when the average daily temp. reaches about 65 degrees Fahrenheit). Louisiana ranks third in the nation for rice production, and the crop grows most prolifically in the southwestern corner of the state. Drive around the Cajun prairie of Acadiana (way to the west of our location in Burnside) in the summertime and you’ll see endless golden fields of the grain waiting for harvest.
At The Cabin and the Coffee House (in The Cajun Village) you can find many dishes that are rice based, from gumbos and jambalayas to parsley rice or rice with gravy. It is a huge part of our diets in Louisiana and we are glad to have a little piece of Louisiana’s rice industry growing in our front yard!