Wild Rice
Resources > Food > Grains > Rice > Wild Rice

Are you a Smart Kitchen™ Chef?

Try it FREE or take a TOUR to explore Smart Kitchen!
+ -

 

The term Wild Rice is most properly, and less commonly, used to refer to primitive varieties of Rice or uncultivated Rice plants both of which belong to the grass family Oryza, which is the Rice family.

On U.S. shelves what we commonly, and improperly, call Wild Rice is actually the squeaky-shelled grass seed of another non-Rice grass plant (Zizania Palustris), which also goes by the name of Indian Rice, Squaw Rice, Canadian Rice, Blackbird Oats, Marsh Oats, and Water Oats.

Wild Rice (“Manomin” in Native tongues which means “good berry”) was historically gathered and eaten in North America by Native Americans. Several Native American tribes, such as the Ojibwa, Sioux, Chippewa, Cree, and Menomini, consider Wild Rice as a sacred part of their culture and used the grain as a staple food. They introduced Wild Rice to European fur traders and explorers who called it Indian Rice and Wild Rice. French explorers though it resembled Oats and they called it Folle Avoine (Wild Oats). Because of this history, many places in what are now Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan are named after this wild aquatic grass plant.

Wild Rice (Manchurian Wild Rice) was also eaten historically (stem and seed) in China, where it was gathered from the wild and was an important grain for a time. Because Wild Rice is difficult to cultivate, it eventually lost importance as its habitat was converted into Rice paddies for domesticated Rice. Today, the Chinese favor traditional, cultivated Rice over Wild Rice, but do continue to eat the stems of the Zizania Palustris as a Vegetable.

In the late 20th century in North America, Wild Rice began a slow ascent into the popular consciousness when James and Gerald Godward began to experiment with Wild Rice on a one acre parcel north of Brainerd, MN. They were the first farmers to cultivate Wild Rice. Ultimately, the nutritional value and taste caught on with consumers, and today Wild Rice is somewhat of an expensive delicacy.

Season

Wild Rice is sown in the Spring and harvested in September in the Fall. 

Cultivation

Wild Rice is well adapted to northern latitudes and does poorly in southern climes. In fact, Wild Rice seeds must be stored in cold 37˚ F ( C) water for 90 days before their dormancy is released.

Wild Rice grows in the shallow water of ponds, slow-running streams, and small lakes. It will normally reach a height of five to six feet but can also grow shorter so that only the flowering head of the Wild Rice plant is visible above the water line.

The Wild Rice plant produces multiple hollow stems that hold up the nodes where the leaves and flowers appear. Wild Rice has a shallow root system that spreads out about 8 to 12 inches in width (203 mm to 305 mm). 

Production

The traditional method of production of Wild Rice in America (usually the Zizania Palustris species) was to gather the self-propagating Wild Rice grains from native plants. The Native Americans of the north would harvest Wild Rice in pairs by canoeing up to a stand of Wild Rice and threshing the grain heads with a wooden stick called a “knocker.”  The conventional wisdom was that Wild Rice needed flowing water to grow.

Today there is a regulated Wild Rice harvest season where citizens can gather wild-growing Wild Rice from Minnesota state lands. After a license is purchased, the license holder is free to harvest Wild Rice in the traditional method: by maneuvering a pole-powered canoe into range so that a “knocker” can hit the node and release the Wild Rice into the bottom of the boat.

Wild Rice is also cultivated. Today, farmers in California (Sacramento, Lake County, and the N.E. Mountain Valleys) and Minnesota (the north-central peat lands), where Wild Rice is the official state grain, are the primary domestic producers. They produce more than 10-12 million pounds of Wild Rice annually and grow their product in paddy fields. Although Minnesota has more acreage devoted to Wild Rice farming (roughly 17,000 acres), California has higher yields and efficiency on its 9,000 acres and their outputs are similar. Between these two states, they produce 99% of the U.S. supply of Wild Rice. About 1% of the U.S. Wild Rice is grown in Idaho, Wisconsin, and Oregon.

Varieties

There are four notable species of Wild Rice. Three of them are native to North America. The fourth is native to China.

Northern Wild Rice (Zizania palustris): Northern Wild Rice is the annual plant that is native to the Great Lakes region of North America and parts of Canada, which was harvested by the Native Americans and farmed by the Godward brothers.

Wild Rice (Zizania Aquatica): Aquatica is an annual Wild Rice plant that grows on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of North America.

Texas Wild Rice (Zizania Texana): Texas Wild Rice is a perennial plant only found along a small area of the San Marcos River in the middle of Texas.

Manchurian Wild Rice (Zizania Latifolia): Manchurian Wild Rice is the only Wild Rice that is indigenous in Asia. It is a perennial plant which is cultivated mostly for its stem, which is eaten as a vegetable. 

Purchasing

The downside is that wild rice more expensive than rice. Cultivated wild rice isn't as expensive--nor as flavorful--as "wild" wild rice. 

Storage

Because it is not actually a Rice, Wild Rice is not processed into two forms (Brown Rice and White Rice) like Rice.

Wild Rice can be stored as you would store White Rice, in an airtight container in a cool pantry.

Cooked, drained, and tightly-covered Wild Rice can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for up to six months.

Culinary Uses

Wild Rice has a nutty taste and a chewy texture. It pairs especially well with Poultry, Wild Game, and Nuts.

Wild Rice is cooked and handled similarly to Rice with the exception that Wild Rice takes longer to cook. Wild Rice can be Steamed, Baked, Stewed, Boiled, Braisedor Simmered.

Wild-grown Wild Rice is more flavorful than cultivated Wild Rice.

Pairings

Wild Rice is especially good with Poultry and Wild Game. It also goes well with Nuts and, surprisingly, Rice.

Substitutes

Brown Rice

Nutritional Value

Amount Per 1 cup (160 g)

Calories 571 

Total Fat 1.7 g

Saturated fat 0.2 g     

Polyunsaturated fat 1.1 g       

Monounsaturated fat 0.3 g    

Cholesterol 0 mg        

Sodium 11 mg

Potassium 683 mg      

Total Carbohydrate 120 g      

Dietary fiber 10 g       

Sugar 4 g        

Protein 24 g    

Vitamin A 0%            

Vitamin C 0%

Calcium 3%     

Iron 17%

Vitamin D 0%

Vitamin B-6 30%

Vitamin B-12 0%       

Magnesium 70%

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes