When Glenn Roberts, an architectural historian and part-time chef, discovered Carolina Gold rice, he was hooked. Carolina Gold is part of a broader cultural cuisine known as Carolina Rice Kitchen–only it’s not limited to the Carolinas or to rice and there is not a single kitchen that it comes from. It’s a cuisine or, as Anson Mills, the company Glenn started to cultivate and mill the rice says, Carolina Kitchen Cuisine is “a complex expression of community that emerges in a distinct locale and is dependent on soil, agriculture, preparation, and rates of consumption.”
Carolina Gold Rice and the other products offered by Anson Farms are heirloom grains that were first raised in the antebellum (pre-Civil War) South, when they were cultivated by a blended culture that included Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans.
It’s All About the Flavor
What stood out to Glenn when he first tasted Carolina Gold was its flavor. This was rice that was bred for taste, not for appearance, shelf life, or transportation. Carolina Gold and the other heirloom grains milled at Anson Mills harken back to a time when a rich local ecosystem of farmers, ranchers, and growers created delicious, sustainable foods to serve the wealthy landowners; and which were also privately raised and prepared by African workers.
The Carolina Kitchen food tapestry was woven with locally grown wheat, corn, rye, oats, barley, olive oil, herbs and spices, vegetables and legumes, nuts, berries mushrooms and more. Add locally made wine, ales and spirits, and wild and raised meat and fish, and you have a farm-to-table chef’s dream world.
More than Rice
Since his first planting of Carolina Gold in the 1990’s, Glenn and Anson Mills have added more heirloom grains to their product line including corn (corn meal, grits, hominy and polenta); rice (Carolina Gold and Charleston Gold), wheat (bread, pasta and pastry flours), rye, oats, buckwheat, farro, peas and benne. Some of the products hail from other parts of the world, and all are built on a passionate commitment to expert seedsmanship and authentic flavors. In addition to growing its own food, the company services as a seed bank for other farmers committed to preserve and promote Carolina Rice Kitchen cuisine.
Anson Mills is far more than a mill–it is a conservator of food history, with crops grown and processed as much as possible the way they were grown and processed some 200 years ago. The farms use as little diesel fuel as possible, use native fertility techniques and low or no-till processes with biomass, crop sequestration and intercropping rotation.
Taste the Difference
The difference, in the end, is flavor. Heirloom products and cultivation techniques are great but if the product doesn’t delight the palate it would not be successful. Anson Mills continues to grow each year through a network of company-owned and partner crops, with Glenn farming some 160 acres himself, by hand.
Do farming methods make ingredients taste better? Check out Anson Mills products to discover the fine flavors of grains and vegetables produced with a focus on the integrity of cuisine and the character of farming that produces them (we sell them all!).