Cool as Rice

November 6th, 2015

We’re on the brink of summer, the bountiful season. Warmer days bring a new burst of new energy; farmer Hannes and team thinning out young plums and topping vines. They also planted risotto in our rice paddy, next to the vlei. You’d think you’re in Po Valley of Italy, where a hundred thousand women from the South once came to tend the harvest.

Bitter Rice

During the winter we had waterblommetjies in that paddy. (If you’ve missed the waterblommetjiebredie, you’re like the Springbok team). The farm guys came up with a nifty solution to place the tubers in crates, so they can be lifted in Spring to make way for rice.

And rice is demanding. In early spring the paddy was drained, the soil enriched and levelled. Hannes retained some seed from last year’s harvest and these were sown in rows, directly into dry soil. (Our chefs demand carnaroli,  known as “The King of Rice”, which has a short, plump grain, not your Tastic-like long grain rice. We like our risotto just so, mwha!)

Babylonstoren Risotto Rice Paddy

Rice is thirsty and the paddy is watered every morning and evening with sprinklers until the rice plant stands 15-20cm high. Then we flood it knee deep with vleiwater and keep that going for months.  Frogs arrive spontaneously to feed on insects. In autumn, with the rice stands eye-high and is laden with grains, we stop the water and the plant yellows.  (At that stage the frogs collect in the drainage channels; the Italians of the Po Valley then scoop them out in bucketfuls and eat them. We ain’t there yet.)

Ripe carnaroli rice at Babylonstoren

How we look forward to autumn.  Anyone for dinner?  Our own risotto with homemade salsiccia fresca and baby marrows anyone?  Mamma mia!

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