Calasparra Rice
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Calasparra Rice is both the term given to Rice grown in the town of Calasparra in Murcia in southeast Spain and the name used to describe the Arroz Sollana (Arroz Balilla x Sollana) from Calasparra, Spain. There are two principle Rice types grown in Calasparra: Bomba Rice and Arroz Sollana. Bomba Rice is usually called by that name, though it is technically also a Calasparra Rice.

Arroz Sollana, a distinctive rounded rice that actually resembles Bomba Rice, infrequently goes by its varietal name (Arroz Balilla x Sollana or Arroz Sollana) and is most often referred to as Calasparra Rice. In the Smart Kitchen Resource Section we will discuss Bomba Rice on its own page and discuss Arroz Sollana/Calasparra Rice here on this page.

There are various claims as to when Rice was first planted in Calasparra. Many claim that the Moors began the practice while they ruled around the 8th century, others claim the 14th century, but there is no documentary evidence to prove rice was grown in Calasparra until the 17th century, a time when Christian forces had long ago reconquered the area.

There is no doubt that Calasparra is well-suited to Rice production. Situated at roughly 1,500 feet in elevation (450 m), the Calasparra rice growing region, including El Samerón, is only 2,162 acres in size (875 hectares) but irrigated by two rivers: The Segura and The Mundo. From this small, pine-covered, rocky bit of land, Calasparra produces some of the most sought after Spanish Paella rice. Boosters claim that the altitude and the plentiful river water make all the difference. A Royal Decree on February 1, 1908, protected the Calasparra brand name and delimited the area to the aforementioned 2,162 acres. Later in 1986, Calasparra was the first Spanish region to be awarded a Protected Geographical Indication for its rice. 

Season

Calasparra Rice is sewn in the late Spring and harvested in the Fall, typically at the end of September.

Cultivation

Arroz Sollana is a stronger plant with a higher yield than Bomba Rice but it is more susceptible to disease. Arroz Sollana is cultivated by hand. If you want to learn more about Rice cultivation visit Smart Kitchen’s General Rice Resource.

Production

The Rice paddies in Calasparra lie along the rivers Segura and Mundo and produce only half of 1% of Spain’s annual Rice harvest. The bulk of the Rice (95%) produced in the region is produced by The Cooperative del Campo “Virgen de la Esperanza” which consists of 160 members.

Prior to planting, the paddies (and channels) are prepared with nutrients, which is a phase called “Land Prep.” In the late spring seeds are moistened to ensure that they don’t float away and then sown randomly on the flooded paddies by hand.

River water is managed through centuries old channels so that it never stagnates around the growing Rice; the water is constantly being replaced and renewed, though the overall water level is carefully scrutinized. Excess water is funneled off back into the river. Pesticides are not used either as the water and predatory Carp do a good job of controlling pests.

Rice crops are rotated with others over a two year cycle in order to avoid depleting the soil. Rice is grown from May to October, then Wheat is in the ground from November through the following June. Beans and other vegetables grow from July until April and Rice returns in May.

The paddies are drained and the fields harvested in late September to early October. The Calasparra Rice is allowed to dry and then is processed before being sewn shut into individual white cloth sacks for transport and sale.

Purchasing

Calasparra Rice is available as both White Rice and Brown Rice, though the White Rice is much more prevalent; the Brown Rice is principally exported to the United States.

When purchasing Rice, always check the expiration date as Rice can go bad if stored too long.

While selecting your Rice, keep an eye out for any signs of moisture which can ruin Rice. Also, try and buy as few broken grains of Rice as possible. Your final dish will likely be a mess of overdone and underdone Rice if you cook with broken grains and whole grains: broken grains are smaller than whole grains and the two sizes won’t cook together uniformly.

Storage

Calasparra Rice is typically found as a White Rice type, which is a dried Grain that doesn’t require very much diligence to store. An unopened container of White Calasparra Rice will keep almost indefinitely in a pantry at room temperature, in the refrigerator, or frozen.

Once opened, the only real risks to the shelf life are moisture and pests, including bugs and rats. Keeping the container sealed and airtight can protect against both of these.

Because Calasparra Rice retains its Bran Layer (with the Rice Bran Oil which will go Rancid), it has a shorter shelf life than White Callaspara Rice and requires different handling and philosophy to maximize your yield and value.

With Brown Calasparra Rice, how you store it revolves around how quickly you plan to use it. If you plan to use it all in a few weeks then store the Brown Calasparra Rice in an airtight container in a cool dark place like your pantry. Sealed, it may last 3-6 months but will be best for only a few weeks. If you open your package from the pantry, store the unused portion in the refrigerator or freezer for a better shelf life.

In the refrigerator your Brown Calasparra Rice will last for 6-12 months in an airtight container. Frozen, you should get 12-18 months (for best quality).

Let cooked Calasparra Rice (assuming it is not used in a Paella with a variety of ingredients) cool to room temperature before storing it in the refrigerator. Cooked Calasparra Rice will last about 3-5 days in the refrigerator but it is best to use it within 2 days. If it is used in a Paella, follow the Storage Guidelines for storing Paella.

Culinary Uses

Calasparra Rice, which looks similar to Bomba Rice, is well known for its excellent absorptive abilities (up to 3 Cups of Water per 1 Cup of Calasparra Rice) and is prized for use in Paella.

In addition to Paella, Calasparra Rice can be used in a variety of sweet and savory Rice dishes such as Pebbled Rice, Chorizo with Calasparra Rice, etc.

If the Calasparra Rice is still crunchy at the end of the cook time, the Rice is undercooked and you may need to add 1-2 T of liquid and cook it a bit longer. If it’s falling apart then it is overcooked and you should start over. Remember, you can fix undercooking, but you can’t fix overcooking. Start checking the Rice early.

Substitutes

Bomba RiceValencia Rice

Nutritional Value

1/4 cup (57 g)

Total fat 0 g

Sodium 0 g

Potassium 40 mg (1%)

Total carbohydrate 35 g (12%)

Protein 3 g

Nutrition

Calasparra Rice is very high in Carbohydrates with some Protein.

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes