In the early 1700’s, rice was South Carolina’s main export — no wonder the variety grown was called Carolina Gold. But where did it come from?
The first reported import in the New World of what is thought to be Carolina Gold occurred in 1685, when a slave ship from Madagascar unloaded a cargo of rice in Charleston, South Carolina.
So was that Indian Ocean island the ultimate source of Carolina Gold? USDA geneticists think they know, and have written about it in a new paper. Anna McClung and Robert Fjellstrom looked for molecular markers for Carolina Gold among the material in USDA rice germplasm collection. The best genetic fit — confirmed by close morphological similarity — was actually with an accession from Ghana, not Madagascar.
Questions remain. Maybe material from Carolina — originally derived from somewhere else — found its way back to Africa.
But geographer Judith Carney of the University of California, Los Angeles, says a Ghanaian origin of Carolina Gold fits with the idea that Carolina Gold arrived in the colony as food on slave ships and was then planted by the slaves.
Efforts are underway to bring this historical variety back into commercial cultivation.