Introducing Trinidad and Tobago’s red rice packed with flavor, nutrients, and history - Moruga Hill Rice.
In the lush emerald hills of Moruga in Trinidad and Tobago, fields of golden grain lay across a vast acreage, patiently waiting to reveal the nutty, crimson delicacy known in TT as Moruga Hill Rice.
This nutty, earthy, and nutrient-packed grain is as tasty as it is historical.
Brought to the twin isle by the Merikins - enslaved Americans who fought for the British in the War of 1812 - Moruga Hill Rice has become a Trinidadian memento for family tradition and wholesome, delicious food. Originally from West Africa, the Merikins settled in Trinidad and planted this enigmatically red rice on fields in the lush hills of Moruga.
Just as the rice freely traveled from West Africa to Southern America and ultimately to Trinidad, so too do the bees, and other natural pollinators bounce from grain to grain across the great hilly terrain to produce a grain so unique that only families of farmers cultivate it. Families like the dynamic duo of Mark Forgenie and his wife Cassie, producers of Vista Dorado Estates’ Moruga Hill Rice in Trinidad.
Though Moruga Hill Rice had its start in the early 1800s, fast forward about 150 years later when young Mark and his brother continued the tradition of cultivating the rice, they would help plant and harvest it, followed by days spent under their grandparent’s house cleaning the rice for family dinners and selling it in local markets. The tradition of growing Moruga Hill Rice grew with The Forgenies for decades before production slowed down, almost to a halt. That cherished tradition seemed to have died until Mark sought to revive it in 2009.
Then in 2018, Forgenie, with support from his wife, saw revamping the Moruga Hill Rice production as an excellent way to spread seeds of Afro-Trinidadian heritage, their family’s history, and of course, wholesome, delicious rice. Mark traveled the world and prepared his heart and mind to start his new agroecology project. He developed a mechanized process for producing the rice on a commercial scale in 2018, putting Moruga Hill Rice back on the map.
Today, you can find this nutty, crimson grain on shelves in supermarkets across Trinidad and Tobago. But along with its history, what makes this rice unique is the way it grows, its flavor, and its string of nutritional benefits.
As the name suggests, hill rice does not grow in traditional rice paddies. Like the ancestors who brought it to the islands, Moruga Hill Rice is hardier and endures in tropical climates. It relies on rainwater and well-drained soil to flourish, which contrasts with its swampier cousins that have to grow in wetlands, like in Guyana or Suriname.
Like other Moruga Hill Rice farmers, Forgenie and his team prepare the land in time for the rains. From January to June, groups of workers begin clearing, weeding, pre-irrigation, first plowing or tilling, harrowing, flooding, and leveling the land. Then the fresh grain is sown from September to October before reaping takes place in December, right in time for Christmas dinners.
At that time, families and friends across Moruga Hill and the rest of T&T set tables with oven-baked ham, pork, and chicken, macaroni pie, stewed beans, hops bread, chow chow, and Christmas festive rice - made with Moruga Hill Rice.
When cooked just right, the copper-colored rice is the perfect vehicle for common meat or vegetable dishes. Still, beyond its traditional savory cooking methods, Moruga Hill Rice can also play the main character in rice porridges, bringing a sweet element to the grain.
Forgenie produces three flavored versions of Moruga Hill Rice, including Pimento Pepper, Geera, and Scorpion Pepper rice. They also create rice flour, an excellent alternative to wheat flour - giving you the powder without the gluten. Other features of this nutritious, all-natural, nutty-flavored rice are that it has zero cholesterol or fat, is low in sugar and carbohydrates, high in fiber, protein, and iron, and even contains Vitamin C and Calcium, which are rarely found in rice.
Moruga Hill Rice truly is one of a kind and a true representation of the rich heritage teeming out of southern Trinidad.
Moruga Hill Rice truly is one of a kind and a true representation of the rich heritage teeming out of southern Trinidad. That heritage continues to traverse miles across the island, and the world as the ruby rice finds its home on shelves in diaspora shops across the USA and Canada. Trini natives and lovers alike can now get Vista Dorado Estates’ Moruga Hill Rice online and have it delivered to them when they shop at caribshopper.com. The rice is available in four variations, and you can also buy the flour, which is perfect for baking cookies and pies.
If you’re ready to give Moruga Hill Rice a taste, try this Moruga Hill Rice and Mushroom dish for starters.
3 Cups Moruga Hill Rice
1 1/2 lbs button mushrooms chopped
1 medium onion diced
4 cloves garlic minced
4 pimentos chopped
3 celery stalks chopped
1 bundle chadon beni chopped
1 scotch bonnet pepper
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp coriander seeds ground
4 tbsp mushroom powder (optional)
1 cup coconut milk
3 cups water
2 tbsp roucou
4 tbsp vegetable oil
Prepare your ingredients
Wash the rice
Cut mushrooms into 1/4 inch slices
Finely chop onions
Make your Trini mirepoix
Grind coriander seeds
Heat oil in a pot, then sauté aromatics, celery, and coriander seeds for 2 minutes
Add mushrooms, then sauté for 5 minutes
Season with salt & black pepper to taste
Add bay leaf, mushroom powder & Moruga Hill Rice, then cook for 5 minutes
Add coconut milk, water, roucou, and scotch bonnet pepper
Bring the pot to a boil, then cover and allow to simmer for 20 minutes
Add fresh chadon beni
Serve & Enjoy