Native Village Youth and Education News

January 1, 2009 Issue 193 Volume 3

Go Wild With Rice:
Grain tries to make a comeback but birds adore it


American Indian Tribal Reservations, Michigan: Archie Kiogima wants to put the wild back in wild rice.

Kiogima, a wildlife biologist for the Little Traverse Band of Odawa Indians, is trying to reseed northern Michigan lakes with grain from Wisconsin and Minnesota.

"We are only experimenting and haven't had a lot of success here (in the northern Lower Peninsula)," he said. "In some instances, people have tried to rid the area of wild rice because it's a nuisance and gets tangled up in their boat propellers.

"I'm a biologist," he said, "so at least I'm glad that we're feeding the ducks."

The technique of growing and harvesting wild rice is a generation removed from its American Indian origins. Wild rice and maize are the only cereal crops indigenous to North America.

In fact, wild rice or "Nanoomin," meaning "good berry," was a sacred component of the American Indian culture; the grain provided a nutritious dietary staple diet along with wild game. It was harvested in northern regions in the fall, after Labor Day and for the first few weeks in September. When the time was right, the tribal elder would report that the grain was ready for gathering and "first ricing" ensued.

Wild rice was harvested by means of "knockers," cedar sticks used to bend and brush the ripe grain heads into a canoe. The excess fell into the water, both feeding the birds and naturally reseeding itself for the following year. Stands of grain can still be found in marshy growing areas in the lakes and rivers around the Great Lakes and Canada, but only sparsely.

Today, wild rice is cultivated for the most part and has become a thriving business. California -- the top wild rice producer in the world -- and some Minnesota rice paddies are created by flooding a field, seeding and, at harvest time, draining and drying the field so as to bring in the mechanical harvesting machinery. The romance of traditional ricing days is almost over, though certain tribes are giving it a go, trying to reseed some of the lakes and rivers that are still undisturbed by the disruption of recreation and population.

As consumers, we have the option of stocking up on several brands of commercially harvested wild rice, if we don't have access to homegrown grain. We can easily enjoy the fact that wild rice, high in protein, low in fat and a rich source of gluten-free dietary fiber, is delicious. Once simply cooked in deer broth and seasoned with maple sugar by American Indians, now this versatile grain can be served with wild game, fish or poultry in a number of creative ways. Mix wild rice with white, or let it stand alone as a savory side. Add it to casseroles, soups or stuffing; add fruit and nuts for a simple yet spectacular salad.


Nutty Wild Rice

1 (6 oz. package) long grain and wild rice mix
1 c. dried cherries or raisins
1/3 c. fresh orange juice (about 1 orange)
1/4 c. olive oil
2 T. chopped fresh mint
1/4 t. pepper
1 c. pecan halves, toasted
4 green onions, chopped 

Prepare rice according to package directions.
Add dried cherries and next four ingredients; toss.
Cover and chill at least two hours;
Add green onions and top with toasted pecan halves before serving.
Makes 8-10 servings.

Wild Rice Casserole
This is also good as a breakfast buffet dish.

1 lb. bulk sausage, browned and drained
1 lb. mushrooms
1 c. celery, thinly sliced
1 small onion, chopped
2 T. butter
1 package long grain and wild rice
11/2 t. chicken bouillon

Prepare rice according to directions, add bouillon.
Saute onions, celery and mushrooms for 3 to 5 minutes.
Add sausage, mushrooms, onions and celery to rice; toss gently.
Bake at 350 degrees in a greased, covered casserole dish until warmed, allowing the flavors to meld. Keep moist. Serves 10-12.


Wild Rice Dressing
This dressing combines brown rice and wild rice. However, you can try substituting wehani or basmati rice for part of the brown rice.

4 c. water
3/4 t. salt
3/4 c. long-grain brown rice
3/4 c. wild rice
1 T. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 lb. fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 c. finely chopped parsley
1 c. sliced celery
1/4 t. crumbled sage
1/8 t. each black pepper, dried marjoram and dried thyme
1/2 c. pecan halves, broken lengthwise

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bring water to a boil and add 1/4 t. salt and both varieties of rice.
Lower to simmer, then cover and cook until rice is tender but still crunchy, 30 to 40 minutes.
In a large ovenproof skillet, gently heat the oil and sauté the onion and mushrooms until the onion becomes transparent.
Add the parsley, celery, cooked rice, seasonings, and pecans.
Stir to mix, then cover and bake for 15 minutes.

 Recipe from Oryana Food Co-op's "What's For Dinner"

Please click on photos and graphics for source credits and details.
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