What wild rice it is
Wild rice is not really a rice at all but the seed of an aquatic grass, Zizania aquatica. It grows in the shallow lakes and rivers of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and northwestern Ontario. Unlike much of the cultivated or paddy-grown American wild rice, Canadian harvests focus on rice grown organically in natural bodies of water. Wild rice is a challenging crop to grow and is not suitable for large-scale production. No wonder it's the most expensive type of rice.
Harvesting wild rice
Once a chief food source for many Native Americans, much of today's wild rice harvest is still done by native peoples from natural stands. Until the 1980s, it was gathered by hand and roasted over open fires. Today, it is usually done by propeller-driven airboats with beater bars and catch trays, then dry-roasted for market.
Buying wild rice
Wild rice has a unique chewy texture and smoky, nutty flavour that lends itself to game and poultry. Though expensive, quality wild rice has long glossy kernels, which triple (or quadruple) in volume when cooked.
Wild rice is easily digestible, high in fibre and protein (double that of brown rice) and a rich source of vitamin B, iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, phosphorous and carbohydrate. It is gluten-free.
Did you know
European explorers named it wild rice because it was growing in the wilderness and the stands resembled rice paddies.
At the market
Wild rice flour is grey-brown to black with a hearty unique flavour. It is
nutritious and a valuable wheat flour substitute for those who cannot tolerate gluten. Wild rice flour can be substituted in some recipes, though results are best when mixed with other flours. Add to pancake batter, muffins, scones and bread. Available from Forbes Wild Foods at www.wildfoods.ca
Wild rice pastas have nutty flavour and chewy texture, which is particularly good with mushroom sauces and Gorgonzola cheese. They are high in protein, fibre, folic acid (vitamin B) and complex carbohydrates. They are gluten-free. Look for Rizopia Organic Wild Rice Pasta. For more information, see www.rizopia.com
Wild rice blends combine dry-roasted wild rice with parboiled white or brown rice and/or other rice and grains for a flavourful mix that cooks with a set amount of water and time (since various types cook differently). To make your own, blend brown rice with wild rice because they both cook in the same time. Available in grocery and health food stores.