Carnaroli Rice

“Traditional Italian Risotto Variety”

Carnaroli rice is a “risotto” type of rice grown in the northern Italy. The seed was sent to me from Italy last winter. There is a modern “improved” version of Carnaroli called “Karnak”. The seed I am offering (as I understand) is the old traditional strain that was bred in 1945 by crossing Vialone Nano and Lencino. This is a medium grain type. Risotto rice is higher in starch content that most other types. In addition, Carnaroli has a high amylose content, which  allows the grain to keep its shape during slow cooking while absorbing liquid. It is highly prized in Italian cuisine and seems to be comfortably at home growing here in Northern Indiana.

Carnaroli is a later maturing variety than most of the varieties I offer. It is a month longer in maturing than the Duborskian. I set out 21 day old transplants at the end of May and harvested on October 8th. The yield was good but not as high as Loto or Vialone. I believe planting a week or two earlier might help to boost the yields. The key to rice maturity is not how many days it is in the field but rather how many days of hot weather it experiences when developing grain. I did try direct seeding some but it did not mature before freezing temperatures set in. The plants reached a height of about 30″ and produce a huge number of tillers; so many in fact, that it made harvest difficult as I could not put my hand around the base of the plant to grab it for cutting with the sickle. In any event, many of the tillers with grain were not fully mature when I harvested. If more had ripened before cold weather set in, I believe the yield could have easily doubled.

Rice seeds should be soaked in water 24 hours before planting. I start my plants indoors in April in plug flats, 50’s and transplant into beds after the last frost date. I recommend not leaving plants in flats for more than three weeks as the starts will yellow easily and weaken when root-bound. Here in Northern Indiana, I plant my rice plugs the last week of May. I plant into 4′ wide beds. This makes adding bird netting over the tops of the plants an easy chore using 5′ t-posts and twine. The plants are spaced 9″ apart in the beds. Upland rice requires about the same amount of water as corn, around 1″ per week during the growing season. The plants will begin to form seed heads in August. At maturity the rice husks will turn to a golden brown and the rice seed inside will be hard.  I harvest in late September, cutting the whole plant and bundling into groups of 4. These bundles are then hung in my drying shed for a few weeks until the plant is fully dry. At this point threshing is easy by hand (pulling the grains off) or using a threshing machine. I use a treadle (foot) powered thresher. Rice has an inedible husk that needs to be removed before eating.   The most primitive way to accomplish this is by pounding the grains with a stick or mallet on a wood surface (tree stump) in order to loosen the husks. There are small rice dehullers available but very difficult to locate. Brill Engineering offers online tutorials on how to build a small dehuller using easy to locate “off the shelf” parts.

  • Alternative planting method. In the spring of 2017 I experimented with direct seeding rice into beds in late May. I had success with early maturing varieties. I recently learned that rice can be direct seeded even earlier; possibly at the beginning of May or late April. I would suggest you conduct some small trials if you are interested in this method. Transplanting has proven to be very reliable for 5 years in a row. Direct seeding is a new concept for me and I can not guarantee the results for any given variety. I am growing in a zone 5b (moving towards a 6).