Middleton Place invites visitors to help plant rice

Carolina Gold rice dropped by hand in a row at Middleton Place on Friday, May 3, 2002. It was to be flooded later in the day. (Wade Spees/Staff)

Historian and journalist Jack Bass – best known in cooking circles as Nathalie Dupree’s husband – likes to give a cotton boll to his houseguests, many of whom have never handled the crop so crucial to the South.

Rice cultivation, far more important to the Lowcountry, is complicated to convey indoors. But Middleton Place yearly gives its visitors the opportunity to plant rice alongside its costumed interpreters; participants also have the chance to fan rice in sweetgrass baskets and pound rice with a wooden pestle.

“To know Lowcountry history, you must learn about Carolina Gold rice,” chief operating officer Tracy Todd is quoted as saying in a release announcing the event’s return. “Rice was the cash crop that allowed Lowcountry planters to amass the greatest fortunes in the colonies.”

According to Todd, the hands-on activity is designed to help visitors better appreciate the contributions of enslaved Africans and African-Americans, who were responsible for raking the rice fields and seeding their furrows, among other arduous tasks.

The planting program is scheduled for 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Friday, Apr. 24 and Saturday, Apr. 25. For more information, visit middletonplace.org, or call (800)782-3608.

A rice harvesting program will be held in September.