“When I arrived [at Herdade do Portocarro] everything was very old”. Full-time farmer and artisan by choice, José Mota Capitão produces rice for 31 years, on 70 hectares of land. He was a pioneer in good soil preservation practices and, in 2015, he started to dedicate himself to carolino rice, in the interests of the Portuguese culinary compendium.
Herdade do Portocarro
São Romão do Sado
7595-033 Torrão, Alcácer do Sal
How to get there
+351 934 060 790
João Rodrigues, Feitoria
Texto de Patrícia Serrado
Born in Lisbon, José Mota Capitão studied agronomy at the Instituto Superior Agrário, in Lisbon. When he turned 23, already an agricultural engineer, he went to work for a multinational company. Five years later, in the early 1990s, he had the opportunity to buy Herdade do Portocarro, in São Romão do Sado, in the municipality of Alcácer do Sal, a 140-hectare property, where rice and wine production were part of the harvest.
The first steps were taken in rice production, limited to 70 hectares, but the concern with the environmental impact determined, in 2001, the change of strategy in the cultivation of this product. “I was a pioneer in the sowing of dry rice, without flooded beds”, to minimize water resources. The second point has to do with direct sowing, “a cultural practice, in which we sow rice on the straw of the previous crop”, to transform into organic matter for the next sowing.
In line with respect for nature, integrated production is the mainstay of rice at this farm. "The impact is as small as possible, to protect the fauna and flora, and our food health", adds José Mota Captain, under the rules imposed in Europe regarding this matter linked to respect for the ecosystem and the consumer, but also regarding the origin of rice.
The production of carolino and long-grain rice, each with different characteristics and flavours, has advanced. “Carolino rice is what has always been consumed in Portugal, but it takes a lot of work to do. Therefore, after a day's work, women prefer to choose the long-grain, which is faster to cook, but you can only make dry rice.” This reality was decisive in the change of plans by José Mota Capitão regarding the type of rice to continue in his portfolio.
In 2015, he left the long-grain rice, “which does not represent any gastronomic interest”, for the benefit of carolino, the chosen one for creamy rice. There are three varieties, about which José Mota Capitão makes a point of referring to the appropriate purposes: “the bomb, suitable for paella; Ronaldo, to make risotto, white rice and rice pudding; and Centauro, to make sushi, fish and seafood”.
At Herdade do Portocarro, the sowing of rice is done in early May, with the help of a tract and seeder, and the harvest takes place in October, with the combine harvester. Once harvested, the beans have about 20% humidity, which is why they are placed in a dryer, which, through hot air, reduces the humidity to 14%. “That way it's stable. Then, it is stored in the warehouse, where it stays for two to three months, protected by the bark.” After this period, “it goes to the machine, which removes the bark and gives it a gentle whitening”, says José Monta Capitão, referring to a small service provider in the region. "It is packaged and returns to provenance."
In addition to rice, José Mota Capitão is well known for its wines. “I produce 100,000 bottles a year and I have 20 hectares of vines”. In the red varieties, it focuses more attention on Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and the foreign Sangiovese, while Galego Dourado, Serceal and Arinto appear in the list of white grape varieties.
Recently, he became a barbel wheat producer. I have 12 hectares, but now I want to go to 25.” The milling takes place at Paulino Horta flours, in Alenquer, in machines equipped with stone millstones, so as not to compromise the nutritional attributes of this raw material, which is very popular in bread-making. "I believe that we should think about the consumer and the quality of products, in favour of people's health."
Back to rice, available under the Loverice brand, it is sold at Herdade do Portocarro, as well as through Qual House, a distribution company, “which sells high-quality products for the Horeca channel” and its wine distributors.