Maratelli rice is a variety that was selected naturally from the fields of Asigliano Vercellese in northwestern Italy. It is an early-ripening variety and is part of the group of ‘semi-fine’ rice. Other than maturing more quickly with respect to other varieties, it has a good yield and, in the right weather conditions, allows for the early use of fields for other successive cultivation. In 1914, in one of his rice paddies in Asigliano, Mario Maratelli cultivated a Chinese native variety, and while weeding noticed one plant taller than all the others with a yellow grain, as if to indicate an advanced ripeness. He decided to isolate it, and continued to observe it, and then collect it at the end of the season and save the grains. The following year he seeded the grains, dedicating a small area to the new rice so as to be able to continue to observe its vegetative cycle. Maratelli thus discovered a new variety derived from a natural hybrid of a then widespread Chinese variety of the genus Japonica. In the 1960s and 70s, it reached its peak of culinary popularity and widespread cultivation. It was so appreciated that for about 20 years, an entire generation of mothers used it for making risotto, soups and to prepare panissa vercellese and paniscia novarese (two types of local rice dishes). Martelli rice saw a constant increase in its cultivation and reached its real boom in 1969 and 1970 with more than 13,000 hectares dedicated to its cultivation. Soon after, it experienced a drastic decline (in 1973 only 800 hectares were planted), and then it had completely disappeared by 1982. The main reasons were the arrival of new, more productive varieties and poor wind resistance in the fields. While in the past it could be found in all the rice-growing areas of Piedmont and Lombardy, today, cultivation and future interest can be found in the towns of Novara and Asigliano Vercellese. Thanks to the hard work of one local rice grower, who in 1992 began to cultivate it in an organic manner, Maratelli rice cultivation is being re-launched. At the beginning of 2013, it was listed in the National Register of conservation varieties, and a second grower has begun its cultivation. Others have expressed interest in beginning cultivation in the next years.
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