Also called Canada Rice, Canadian Lake Wild Rice or Indian Rice.
Wild rice is an annual aquatic grass species that looks like rice and grows like rice, but belongs to a totally different species, in the genus Zizania. Rice belongs to the genus, Oryza.
Historically, the grain was an important food to Native North Americans for centuries..
The dried whole grain is now a delicacy in North America, but due to low yields, it’s much more expensive than other grains.To reduce costs it’s often sold packaged, in combination with long grain white or brown rice, or Basmati.
The high quality, long. glossy, black-brown whole grains have a chewy outer sheath and a tender inner grain with a vegetal taste.
The whole grain “flowers” or bursts open, when fully cooked. The dark outer sheath retains a chewy texture.
The taste is delicious and nutty
Wild rice does not contain gluten and is very low in fat.
Two species Zizania palustris and Zizania aquatica are sold as wild rice.
Wild Rice Species Native to North America
Zizania palustris most commonly harvested and sold as wild rice. It’s grown commercially in the United States, in California and Minnesota, in paddy fields and in Saskatchewan and Manitoba in Canada. It’s the official state grain in Minnesota. It’s also produced in Hungary and Australia.
Zizania aquatica is also sold as wild rice, but was eaten extensively in the past. It’s an annual aquatic plantgrowing in St Lawrence River and the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United states.It’s also found throughout most of Canada.
Zizania texana also called Texas wild rice is a perennial, rare grass species found along the San Marcos River in Central Texas. It’s endemic to Texas and the species is currently classified as endangered. The grains are not eaten. (see article here)
The wild rice species, usually, grow, submerged in shallow waters in small lakes and slow-flowing streams. often the flowering head rises above the water.
The annual production of wild rice can be quite variable; however, Saskatchewan is the major producer of wild rice (Zizania palustris) in Canada with an annual production of approximately 0.9 million kg, as compared with a total Canadian production of 1.36 million kg.
In the United States, mainly in Minnesota and California, paddy wild rice is grown under commercial farming conditions where approximately 9 million kg is grown each year; in Minnesota there is a small-lake wild rice harvest of approximately 0.227 million kg each year.
Saskatchewan’s naturally grown lake wild rice is marketed across North Americaand Europe, and is recognized as a premium product owing to its large kernel size, dark coloration, and nutty flavour.
A pound of wild rice provides about 15 servings.
Wild rice is excellent in soups, salads, stuffings and pilafs or served with full flavoured poultry, meats, and other sauces.
You can pop wild rice like popcorn.
In the wild, the grain is also eaten by dabbling ducks and other aquatic animals.
Wild rice is high in protein, second only to oats and the amino acid lysine and dietary fibre.
It’s also a good source of B-vitamins, manganese, phosphorous, zinc and magnesium.
Cooking Wild Rice
The ratio is 1 cup wild rice and about 3 cups water. Bring to the boil and simmer with a tight fitting lid for 35-50 minutes.
When the rice is fully cooked the grains ‘flower’or burst open. The outer, black sheath retains a chewy texture.
1 cup dried rice yields 3-4 cups cooked rice.
Because the grains are low in fat, uncooked wild rice will keep for a very long time in an airtight container, in a cool dry place.
Cooked rice can be stored for up to one week in the fridge and up to six months in the freezer