Although it resembles rice, wild rice is actually an aquatic grass seed often referred to as a pseudograin or false grain. But that doesn’t mean wild rice doesn’t measure up to a true grain like rice. In fact, wild rice boasts higher nutrition than regular rice, with more protein, minerals, and B vitamins per serving. It’s also low in fat and, like other pseudograins (such as quinoa and flaxseed), gluten free.
A well-known staple of the Ojibwe, wild rice has often been called a delicacy by non-Native Americans. While that may be true, wild rice doesn’t have to be reserved for a special occasion. Red Lake Nation wild rice is easy to prepare, affordable, and available year-round. Traditionally, the month of September was called “ricing moon,” the time when the Ojibwe left their homes to set up camps near the lakes for the harvest. For weeks, they spent their days gathering and processing the wild rice. Processing included drying the rice in the sun, parching it over a fire, and separating the hulls from the seeds. The Chippewa celebrated the end of the harvest with a festival of thanksgiving. During the festival, they cooked and ate the first finished rice of the season.
Because it was such a valuable food staple, wild rice became a staple at trading posts. Besides being used for barter, wild rice also helped feed canoers who transported furs to and from the posts.
Wild rice was also an important part of the Ojibwe hunt. Wild birds, ducks, and geese attracted to wild rice as a food source. Hidden in the thick plants where the hungry birds couldn’t see them, the Ojibwe used clubs to hunt the birds as they hovered over the rice beds to feed. According to some Ojibwe, waterfowl that ate wild rice were of the finest quality to hunt – fat and delicious!
Cooked wild rice keeps in the refrigerator for one week or freezes for six months. Uncooked, it stays good for years.
Ration wild rice at 1 to 3. That means for every cup of raw wild rice 3 cups of liquid will be needed for cooking. Average cooking times range from 25-30 minutes for Quick Cook Wild Rice and 45-60 minutes for the darker finish varieties.
Wild rice requires more liquid and cooking time than white rice and expands three to four times its raw size after cooking. The amount of liquid needed and length of cooking time can vary widely depending on the source of the grain and how it was processed.
Wild rice should always be cooked covered although the rice may be stirred occasionally. Wild rice is properly cooked when kernels are tender but not mushy and many have burst open to reveal a cream-colored interior. Overcooking will cause split kernels to curl. A 1/3 cup serving of wild rice provides approximately 16 grams of whole grains, or the equivalent of one serving of a whole grain.
Red Lake Nation wild rice also contains more than 12% protein uncooked and is significantly higher in protein than white rice or most other grains. Wild rice has more niacin than brown rice and is a good source of other B vitamins.
Like many other grains, a grading system has been developed for wild rice. After it has been dried and hulled, it receives a grade of A, B or C depending on the thickness and length of the kernel. The thicker the kernel, the longer it takes to cook, with A grade being the thickest.
Uncooked wild rice will keep indefinitely when placed in dry storage. Cooked, drained and tightly covered wild rice can be stored in the refrigerator for one to two weeks. Cooking and freezing Red Lake Nation wild rice ahead of time turns it into a convenience food. Cooked wild rice (plain) will keep about six months in the freezer. It must be drained well and placed in an airtight container.