In an audacious move, saffron producer Alexandre Reis, of the Domaine du Triskell Rouge in Brittany, is growing rice. “There is quite a lot of standing water on the farmland, so rice seemed the obvious crop. Of course everyone in the area thought I was mad but they’d never tried it.”
The first year all that grew were plants but no rice, but the second year produced a very healthy crop. “The unique thing is that our rice is green, and actually gets even greener as you cook it. I have no idea why, but it tastes great and looks fabulous on the plate.”
Alexandre Reis relishes being a farmer. “I used to work in haute couture in Paris, when I came to Brittany on holiday and saw everyone saying hello in the street I realised that’s how life should be and I never went back.” Instead, in 2014 he bought an old farmhouse and set about growing saffron.
He is not selling his rice yet because it is still in the research and testing stage, but they are aiming to produce around two tonnes of top quality green rice a year.
He hopes to start selling his green rice in three to five years’ time once it has IGP status, meaning that Breton rice can only be so-called if it is grown in the area around Evran and the Domaine du Triskell Rouge.
“It’s an adventure, but you have to try,” he laughs. “Gastronomy is la haute couture de la bouche – I’m always looking for something new and wonderful. So now we also grow edible roses as well as saffron, and make rose jelly and crystallised rose petals. We also grow oranges, lemons and Japanese yuzu fruit trees. Again, people said it couldn’t be done, but it can. In any case, the climate is warming. Within a decade the climate in Brittany will be like northern Portugal.”
Visits to the farm are free, and Alexandre enjoys showing visitors around the paddy fields and introducing them to all the animals. “We have a horse, a donkey, pigs, some goats, a cow and her calf, a Billy goat who chases the foxes away from our hens.” Visitors can also buy their eggs, pork and charcuterie, cider vinegars, saffron jellies and gourmet baskets of foodie treats.