The first written document referring to Calasparra rice was in 1634. In it is mentioned the modifications that needed to be made to the Rotas irrigation ditch in order to grow the rice.
During the XVIII century the definitive catchment system was produced to cultívate this plant. The area spread over the Vega de Segura ( the meadows along the river Segura), invading the meadows along the river Moratalla, Quipar and Argos, located near the urban nucleos. This proximity produced serious epidemics which led the Town Hall to prohibit the cultivation of the rice in areas near the town.
From 1804, due to the worst outbreak of an epidemic, the cultivation withdrew slowly to areas further away from the populated areas, irrigated by the river Segura.
The cultivation of the rice became official and protected by the favour of the Royal Decree of February 1, 1908 under which the rice growing area was extended to include Hellín, Moratalla and Calasparra.
The brand, “Arroz de Calasparra” (Calasparra Rice) was registered in 1928. The excellent quality of the product was guaranteed and obtained the Denominación de Origen in 1986.
The characteristics of the quality that gives it prestige and differentiates Calasparra Rice from the rest come from the ecological environment and its cultivation system, both of which are clearly different from the rest of the rice growing areas:
- The cold temperature and purity of the irrigation water
- The climate of the area, in that it is a mountain cultivation, grown at altitude and in a perfect humidity for the best develpment of the grain.
- The irrigation system, which permits the irrigation water to be changed constantly, which is also why the plantations have a very varied wildlife.
- The system of crop rotation whih benefits the soil.
- The maintenance of traditional seeds: Calasparra being the only place where they are used.
- The natural dehydration of the rice, which gives it its flavour and extraordinary hardness.
- The slow maturing process of the grain, which is 30% longer than other rice.
Cultivation and Production
The annual production is very limited, about 3 to 4 million kilos. Even though the area written in the Register of the D.O. is of 1.060 hectares, given the system crop rotation, only 500 to 700 hectares are sown annually.
Through flooding the fields mud is produced to prepare the soil for sowing. The sowing starts in April and traditionally is done by hand (“a voleo”).
In the middle of August the rice fields take an intense green colour turning gold in September. At the end of September or the beginning of October the rice harvest begins and the crop is taken to the D.O. designated mills to be produced, packaged and put on the market.
The Denominación de Origen
On March 4, 1986, Calasparra Rice (Arroz de Calasparra) obtained the Denominacion de Origen. The Regulator Assessor guarantees the origin of the product and ensures that the whole process of the cultivation of the rice respects the methods which assure a quality deserving of the name, which is internationally known and appreciated. For this reason the fields and the mills under the D.O. are controlled and inspected to ensure they comply with the Quality Manual.
The Committee of Certification is responsable for giving the product its certifícate, taking samples and carryng out trials.
The existing varieties are Balilla x Sollana and Bomba. These are the best examples of the special characteristics of the rice fields of Calasparra. The altitude, temperature and the purity of the water, plus the ambient, means the maturing process is longer and thus gives those properties that differentiate Calasparra Rice from any other on the market today.
The variety “Bomba” is the jewel of Calasparra Rice. It is white and small but increases in size, both in length and width, when cooked by 100%.
Highly resistant to sticking it absorbs five measures of liquid for one of rice in a paella. It will not overcook and can be reheated without losing any of its texture or flavour.
Cooking time is approximately 18 minutes, on a high heat for the first 12 minutes and then the remaining time on a low heat. It is advisable to cover it and let it rest for five minutes before serving.
The variety “Balilla x Sollana” is a round grain of excellent quality which, when cooked, expands in size by up to 60%. It has a great resistance to sticking and absorbs three parts of liquid to one of grain in rice dishes. This type of rice is recommended for paellas as well as sweet puddings or stews. Cooking time is appoximately 20 minutes.
It is white, “semi-integral “ and “biologically grown integral.” The rice is grown in ideal conditions for purity and chemical substances are not used in its cultivation or production.