Health – What About Wild Rice?

Here are some interesting facts about wild rice from the site Vegetarians in Paradise.

Contrary to what many people believe, wild rice is not rice at all but a grass. …

The Algonquin, Ojibwa, Dakota, Winnebago, Sioux, Fox, and Chippewa tribes used wild rice as an important staple in their diets. … The grain was so valuable to subsistence that tribes sometimes waged wars over wild rice territories. The Chippewa even carried small pouches of wild rice with them whenever they traveled. …

The Chinese favor these plants not for their cereal grains, but for their broad leaves and young shoots that they incorporate into their cuisine. The leaves are used to wrap dumplings, while the shoots are cooked and eaten like asparagus.

Traditional Harvesting

In times past, the annual harvesting of wild rice began a month before actually reaping the rice with great ceremony among the many tribes that would gather at their chosen harvesting lakes. The flavor and color of wild rice varied considerably from region to region among the lakes because of varying soil conditions, water organisms, and the changing environment. Since the Indian tribes knew the area well, it could be said they were staking out their favorite spots.

In late August and September of each year, during the period known as “rice moon,” their celebrations resembled a lively country fair. When the time “was right,” the ricing chief would declare the proper day for harvesting. Then pairs of Indian women slowly roamed the grassy lakes in their birch bark canoes. One would take her place at the front of the boat and paddle with a long pole; the other used two long cedar or juniper sticks to bend the tall grass-heads and gently shake the seeds of the pale-green stalks into the bottom of the boat. A canoe-full of wild rice was considered a good harvest day.

Some of the grains would fall back into the water and become the seeds for next year’s crop. Since the seed kernels do not all ripen at the same time, the women made numerous trips at intervals of four to six days to harvest the seeds that continue to mature. Minus the pre-harvesting ceremony, this three-centuries-old gathering method is still used today, which explains why this wild-crafted grain tends to be a pricey luxury. Some have even referred to truly wild rice as the “caviar of grains.” Today, the men of the tribe share the harvesting task. …

In former times to loosen the hulls of the wild rice, the young children would dance on the grains that were placed in a shallow pit lined with deerskin. The rice would then be strained through blankets to separate the chaff from the kernels. Today, the wild rice is put into bags and hand-pounded with clubs to loosen the hulls. The women then winnow the grains by lifting their filled birch-bark trays and tossing the seeds into the air, allowing the winds to carry off the hulls.

Today, the wild rice is winnowed on the reservations in large 30-gallon drums with paddles inside that loosen the hulls as the drums are turned. …

Nutritional Benefits

Wild rice towers over other grains when it comes to amounts of protein, minerals, B vitamins, folic acid, and carbohydrates. While the protein content of 1/2 cup of cooked wild rice measures 3.3 grams, that same quantity of long grain brown rice contains only 2 grams. The bonus is that the wild rice, though high in carbohydrates at 17.5 grams, has only 83 calories for 1/2 cup cooked.

Using the same 1/2 cup measurement of cooked grains, the folic acid content soars over brown rice with 21.3 mcg for wild rice and 3.9 mcg for brown rice. According to the University of California Berkeley Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition, 1/2 cup dry wild rice provides 95 mcg or 48% of the RDA (200 mcg) of folacin for men and 53% for women.

The niacin content of wild rice is also a stand-out figure, with 1.06 mg for 1/2 cup cooked. Potassium packs an 83 mg punch, and zinc, which is usually available in trace amounts, registers 1.1 mg.

While 1/2 cup cooked wild rice offers 1.5 grams of fiber, it contains 26 mg of magnesium, a healthy balance of B vitamins and only .3 grams of unsaturated fat. Small amounts of calcium and iron are also part of the wild rice picture. …


Wild rice should be rinsed before cooking to remove any unwanted particles, such as hulls or storage debris. Put the grains into a saucepan with warm water to cover, and stir the rice around to allow any particles to float to the top. Skim off the particles and drain the water. It’s best to repeat the rinsing one more time before cooking.

As a general rule established proportions for cultivated wild rice use 1 cup of dry wild rice to 3 cups of water, with salt to taste. We suggest 1 teaspoon of salt. Combine these in a 2 or 3-quart saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn heat down to medium low, and steam for 45 minutes to 1 hour. When fully cooked, the grains open to reveal their purplish-grey inner portion, giving each grain a striking two-tone appearance. This quantity will yield about 3 to 4 cups of cooked grains, depending on variety.

Wild-crafted wild rice proportions use 1 cup of grain to 2 cups of water with a cooking time of 45 minutes. …

Try some wild rice. Make it into a salad with chopped, diced, and shredded fresh vegetables including cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, scallions, bell peppers, carrots, and cabbage. Add a few chopped raw nuts of your choice, and season with a hint of fresh minced sage, oregano and lemon juice. You can also grind it into flour and use approximately 25% of the flour in batters for muffins, pancakes, and breads. You’ll enjoy the extraordinary richness of flavor.