Wild About Rice!

Blog, Grain

Most of the wild rice that is available in grocery stores is similar to brown rice grown in rice paddies. It cooks uniformly, and is consistently the same year after year because it is cultivated rice. This type of rice is actually a hybrid developed by the University of Minnesota.

Also, most of the grains we currently purchase in America such as wheat, brown rice, barley, soybeans and corn, have undergone years and years of hybridizing. Not one of these grains is natural anymore. All the other grains we use today other than wild rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth and buckwheat have been tampered with. Real wild rice is also not genetically modified. This is a natural grain, native to Minnesota (where it is the official state grain), and cannot be cultivated. Modern hybrid grains have fewer nutrients than their ancestors. Real wild rice grows on non-depleted soils at the bottom of pristine lakes and has the same nutritional value as it did years ago.

Wild Rice is the grain of a reed-like aquatic plant (Zizania palustris), which is unrelated to rice.  The grains are long, slender and black, with a distinctive earthy, nutty flavor. The beds of wild rice you can share with other leaseholders are located in Leech Lake, Minnesota, one of thousands of lakes formed as the glaciers receded 12,000 years ago.  The alluvial deposits at the bottom of these lakes, with their rich humus, provide an ideal anchor for the root systems of each season’s plant. The water has to be at a certain level and it needs to flow slightly, but not enough to uproot the plants.

Our wild rice is 100% naturally grown and is not certified organic, in accordance with the USDA regulations, since it is grown in the wild lakes and rivers of Northern Minnesota, not on a certified organic farm.

In addition to its role as an important food staple for ancestral peoples, it has provided a unique habitat for fish and waterfowl for thousands of years. The Ojibwe’s succinct word for “grain of berry” is “min.” Their word “mano”, meaning “good”, creates the compound word “manomin” (good grain of berry). Wild rice was known by this name (“manomin”) to the Ojibwe and to most of the early white explorers and settlers of the Upper Mississippi Valley. Throughout the years, there have been 60 popular names used for wild rice. English terms were numerous but the most commonly accepted name became wild rice. Many of the Indigenous Peoples of North America consider the “wild” varieties of lake and river wild rice to be “A Gift from the Great Spirit -the Creator Himself”, spiritually sacred and therefore distinct from the “cultivated” or “farm grown” varieties. The Native American communities of northern Minnesota have many stories about the discovery of wild rice.  One of the most popular is the Ojibwe tale of Wenabozhoo.  This mythological hero did not know that the seed was edible.  Instead, captivated by the plant’s beauty, he and his grandmother sowed its seed in many lakes.  Wenabozhoo heard voices urging him to eat the seed.  He refused at first, but eventually bit into the plant’s root and became ill.  Finally, the soft voice of the lovely grasses coaxed him once more, and he tried again.  This time he did not fall ill, and realizing that the grass came from the seeds he and his grandmother had sowed, he knew that his people were the recipients of a rare gift called “manoomin” in Ojibwe.  The Native stories often incorporate historical fact, legend, and allegory.  They detail both human and supernatural participation in the propagation, cultivation, and harvest of wild rice.  Most important, they place wild rice at the very heart of the economic and spiritual life of their people.  Wild rice has, in deed, become a vital economic asset to the residents of the upper mid-west but to this day it plays a vital part in the sacred life of those who gather the crops as their ancestors did. In the old days, wild rice was a matter of life or death for Native American communities.  A bad season could mean starvation.  A good crop meant a season of plenty and was met with gratitude and rejoicing.

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