Red rice from The Camargue, France
Red rice from The Camargue, France

Red rice from The Camargue, France. Grown by Silo de Tourtoulen.

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Carmargue warehouse buildings
Carmargue warehouse buildings

Carmargue warehouse buildings France

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Black Bulls of The Camargue France
Black Bulls of The Camargue France

Black Bulls of The Camargue France

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Red rice from The Camargue, France
Red rice from The Camargue, France

Red rice from The Camargue, France. Grown by Silo de Tourtoulen.

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Red rice from the Camargue, France

An interview with Madame Lacrotte of Silo de Tourtoulen

A unique part of Southern France grows a delicious nutty flavoured wholesome red rice with a slightly chewy texture.

Not far from the buzz of pretty French towns like Aix and St. Remy, lie the windswept marshlands of the Camargue, an area not only renowned for it's sea salt, a very special breed of black bulls, pony sized white horses and delicate flamingos, but also home to rice paddy fields. Hosting over a million visitors a year, The Camargue, in the south of Provence covers 140,000 hectares of wetlands including natural marsh, reedbeds and lakes; pastures, dunes and salt flats of which over half is a designated national park nature reserve.

The triangular river delta area has it's tip in Arles and spreads out down to the coast between two branches of the Rhone and the Mediterranean sea. The low lying land is, at best, only a metre above sea level, so fresh water flooding needed for rice paddies stops the soil reverting to salty marshland and allows grass to grow. This forms part of a carefully managed eco-system, where agriculture meets nature.

We visited in spring, driving the flat roads from Arles to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer at the mouth of the delta, enjoying close-up views of shiny large horned black bulls; white horses - some guarding foals which start life black or dark brown - flocks of graceful flamingos, as well as many migrating water birds. We recognised terns, herons and egrets, only a fraction of a reported four hundred different species.

The highlight, however, was meeting with Dominique Lacrotte, charming French wife of the director of Silo de Tourtoulen, a rice production plant at Le Sambuc, on the outskirts of Arles.

Though other red rices are grown in America, this one, from France, is of superior quality. It is an unmilled red rice, a short-grain rice with a brownish-red colour, and I would describe its character as earthy and gutsy, with a firm, slightly chewy texture and a nutty flavour. It is excellent in salads and combined with other strong flavours. Because it is a short-grain rice it is very slightly sticky when cooked and not meant to be separate and fluffy.

Camargue Red Rice was one of the first Merchant Gourmet lines to be launched into supermarkets, back in 1995. To this day it still remains as one of our firm best-sellers due to its distinct nutty flavour and slightly chewy texture.

The Red Rice is grown in the Camargue region of the South of France. It is a whole grain, medium rice that has not been polished, which leaves the outer bran layers intact and as a result gives the rice its distinctive and interesting red colour. It has a very firm texture, which also provides our Camargue Rice with a fantastic nutty flavour.

Camargue Red Rice works wonderfully as a side dish to accompany poultry and meats, or use the rice as a main course, served cold in colourful and tasty rice salads. It's sure to add lots of colour and texture to any meal! This product is: wheat free, gluten free and nut free.

Although not yet very popular in France, Northern Europeans can't seem to get enough of the red rice from the Camargue region of France. This area happens to be the most northerly rice-growing area in Europe. Introduced to The Camargue by Henry IV, rice is today the principal economic activity in the region after tourism. Le riz rouge as it is called, is similar to brown rice with a nutty flavor, but is slightly firmer and less sticky than it's cousin. It gets its color from the same pigment used in wine. The production of red rice has recently become organic in Camargue and one of those producers is the company Silo de Tourtoulen, pioneers in the production of organic rice. They produce some 300 tons of organic red rice which is the result of a natural variety cross. It's qualities come from the exceptional land, sun and wind of Camargue. It is gathered when really mature and dried under the sun and the Mistral wind.

With its rich soil, its strong sun, and its never ending "Mistral" wind , Camargue, an area of Provence, was bound to become a rice land. King Henry the fourth ordered to grow rice in Camargue in 1593. Rice-growing fields really expanded in the region after the second world war. It now produces this very famous and tasty red rice that gourmets appreciate.

Camargue Red Rice is a browny-maroon coloured, short grain rice with an earthy, nutty flavour.

It is grown in southern France in marshland on the coast between Marseille and Montpelier.

The rice is harvested with a combine, but grown herbicide-free. 90% of the crop is exported.

Cooking Tips:

When cooked, it won't be fluffy; it will turn deeper red, and be slightly sticky and still keep a bit of a chewy texture. It is very good in rice salads and jambalaya.

Allow 2 oz (50g) per person. Cover rice in a pot with boiling water. Simmer until tender -- about 30 to 40 minutes, then drain and serve. It will colour anything you cook with it red as well. You can also cook it up in stock or broth. Some like to toss it with olive oil, herbs, and salt and pepper.

Still, farmers started growing rice with greater gusto in 1830 in the Camargue, as there was too much salt getting into the ground water, which might kill off everything else growing in the region. Large rice paddies were created to grow rice which would absorb the salt. Consequently, the area became an important area of rice production until just after WWII. Redrice is a  chance cross between wild rice and a short grain rice that was discovered in 1983 by  René Griotto (deceased 1989.) He found it growing at the foot of the Montmajor Abbey and further genetic development of the cross was pursued in conjunction with the French "Institut national de la recherche agronomique" (INRA.) They'd grow plants, select seed from certain plants, then grow these, till finally they settled on the plant breed known today as Camargue Red Rice.

 

The first crop was harvested in 1988. Full-scale production and commercialization began in 1992