itit enen

The cultivation

Surrounded by an uncontaminated nature reserve and far from thoroughfares, three varieties of highest quality rice are cultivated in the agricultural territory Riserva San Massimo: the autentico Carnaroli (superfino as well as whole grain), the Rosa Marchetti and the Vialone Nano.

The rice is cultivated exclusively inside the Riserva.
The soil on which the agricultural enterprise San Massimo stands – a cove of the Ticino river that changed its course over the years – turned out to be extraordinarily fertile. In the whole area a very rich, peaty soil can be found, that develops from vegetative remains and microorganisms. Due to the water’s acidity they don’t corrode completely, thus keeping the soil so fertile that it does not need a lot of manuring. Only in rare cases organic substances (grape marc, green manure and other vegetal materials) are used as a supplement.

The essential protection of the biodiversity and of the traditional means of cultivation that are used inside the Riserva San Massimo, evidence that the conservative measures, implied by the communitary agricultural politics, are complied. But already before the Antonello family – for decades owner of the reserve – made this demanding but gratifying choice, it dedicated itself to protecting the beauty of the place and sustaining the autoctone cultivation.  

Only a few examples for positive practices that have contributed to keeping the local biodiversity unaltered, determining thus the uniqueness of the cultivated products, are: the maintenance of the shore grasses on the fields, the deep furrows on the borderlines (that collect a water reserve which is fundamental to the life cycle of many animal species in case of drought and for the presence of frogs in the paddy fields), the crop rotation and the techniques of integrated agriculture.

The elaboration

But it is not only the habitat, in which this rice is grown, that makes it unique. A lot of attention is dedicated to all processing phases in order to guarantee an outstanding product.

The production process – from threshing to packaging – of the different rice varieties of Riserva San Massimo is still completely artisanal. This way the rice keeps all of its flavours, fragrances and organoleptic qualities intact, that it gained during its ripening in this completely natural habitat.

The work of Cristiano Guizzardi and the knowledge of each single plant of Dino Massignani are crucial to the quality of the rice from Riserva San Massimo. Massignani observes the rice cultivation, step by step and season after season with the objective to keep the best artisanal practices alive while introducing innovative processing methods at the same time.

When the right degree of maturation is reached, the paddy (before it is husked) is picked and immediately low temperature dried on the farm. Even though it is still allowed to dry rice with gasoline and above a direct flame – a procedure that notoriously leaves residues and modifies the taste – Riserva San Massimo uses methane gas, drying the rice through a heat exchanger that avoids the emanations touching the rice grains directly. This drying method is not only the healthier solution, it also works with low temperatures and therefore maintains each grain intact and compact.

From cultivation to packaging, all of the processes that the rice passes inside the farm are accurately controlled and continuously perfected.

At the end of the drying process the rice is stored in ventilated silos, just like it was done in the past, without adding any kind of preservative. Then the rice is husked in small quantities, based on the clients requests. This way the maximum freshness of the final product can be guaranteed.

To obtain the classic white rice that we all know, it actually needs to be “husked”. That means the heart of the grain is separated from the cortex (husk) that encloses it. It is a fundamental and very delicate process that the agricultural enterprise San Massimo uses  today just like it did back in time, using conical stones that rid the grain from the pericarp in a completely natural and mechanical way.

With this slow stone-processing technique the temperature can be kept low, avoiding to “precook” the rice and preventing cracks in the grains. In this way all the organoleptic qualities of each rice grain are conserved. For the long-term protection of the product, the rice it is packaged under modified atmosphere (MAP) right after the husking. This procedure guarantees an extremely long preservability that maintains all the characteristics of freshly picked rice.

Our rice

Dino’s scrupulous eye controls the quality of each package, sachet after sachet, and only if everything is perfect, it is time for the labelling which happens manually. Now the rice is ready to be sold.

What is particularly evident in the case of Carnaroli whole grain rice is that every time a package is opened, the original scents and fragrance of the freshly processed rice radiates in the room.

The objective regarding the Carnaroli is to guarantee at all times an excellent product. Therefore Riserva San Massimo selects only the best seeds, certificated by E.N.S.E. (national cooperation for elected seeds) as 100% Carnaroli. The difference in the quality between this rice and substituting varieties like Karnak, Carnise and premature Carnise, that are also sold as “Carnaroli”, is evident right away. 

The agricultural enterprise made a quality choice: cultivating only pure Carnaroli on approximately 100 hectares even though this rice variety has by far the longest maturation period with a vegetation cycle of circa 165 days and even though the cultivation is risky. The Carnaroli rice is a delicate variety with plants that grow very high – up to 175 cm. Due to wind, rain and floreal abortion caused by frost, lodging (loosing of the erect position of the plant) appears rather frequently.