What Is Wild Rice?

Wild rice.  We love it for its nutty flavor and slightly crunchy texture and we somehow, can never, pass up a warm bowl of cream of wild rice soup.  But what IS wild rice really?  Ironically, wild rice isn’t rice at all- in fact, it’s a grain that is harvested from the four different species of grasses that grow predominantly in the fresh water areas of North America.  The state of Minnesota is known for this delicious morsel and the lush, wet terrain of the Boundary Waters serves as a perfect stage for this sought after plant to grow.

Considered sacred by the Ojibwa culture, the rice is harvested as a team effort- one person steers the canoe with a paddle or a push pole while the other ‘knocks’ the rice into the boat with two small poles called knockers.  The size of the knockers, as well as other harvesting details, are mandated by the state of Minnesota and tribal law.  The Minnesota statute specifically defines the parameters of these tools and the knockers cannot weigh more than a pound or be longer than 30 inches.  Nudged gently, not beaten into the boat, these “good berries’ as the Ojibwa call them, are brushed delicately to dislodge the mature grain.

Growing in popularity in the late 20th century, commercial cultivation began in Minnesota to meet the ever increasing demand.  Minnesota remains a top producer of the plant and wild rice is even the official state grain.  Typically sold as a dried whole grain, wild rice is packed with nutrients such as B vitamins, iron and potassium.  In addition, it is gluten free and high in fiber.  So what is the best way to enjoy this wholesome (and sacred) grain?  The internet is full of great wild rice recipes (we’ve even pinned a few!) from the classic soup to every thing from wild rice casserole to wild rice salad and wild rice stuffing, but we have have included the basic how-to to get you started.  For you seasoned Minnesota chefs we ask- What’s your favorite way to cook and enjoy wild rice?

How To Cook Wild Rice:

Take 1 cup uncooked wild rice and add to 4 cups of boiling water in a heavy saucepan.  Add seasonings for flavor.  Examples: salt, lemon pepper, chicken or beef bouillon cubes, or chicken or beef broth (would replace water).  Return water to boil and stir.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 50-60 minutes or just until kernels puff open.  Uncover and fluff with table fork.  Simmer five additional minutes.  Drain any excess liquid.  For chewier texture cook less time. Yield:  3 – 4 cups cooked wild rice

 

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