Wild rice (also called Canada rice, Indian rice, and water oats) is four species of grasses forming the genus Zizania, and the grain which can be harvested from them. The grain was historically gathered and eaten in both North America and China. While it is now something of a delicacy in North America, the grain is eaten less in China, where the plant’s stem is used as a vegetable.
Wild rice is not directly related to Asian rice (Oryza sativa), whose wild progenitors are O. rufipogon and O. nivara, although they are close cousins, sharing the tribe Oryzeae. It is also not the plant described as ζιζάνια (zizania) in the Parable of the Tares in the Bible, which is thought to be Lolium temulentum.
The plants grow in shallow water in small lakes and slow-flowing streams; often, only the flowering head of wild rice rises above the water. The grain is eaten by dabbling ducks and other aquatic wildlife, as well as humans.
Three species of wild rice are native to North America:
- § Northern wild rice is an annual plant native to the Great Lakes region of North America, the aquatic areas of the Boreal Forest regions of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba and Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan in the US.
- § Wild rice, also an annual, grows in the Saint Lawrence River and on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States.
- § Texas wild rice is a perennial plant only found in a small area along the San Marcos River in central Texas.
One species is native to Asia:
§ Manchurian wild rice , is a perennial native to China.
Texas wild rice is in danger of extinction due to loss of suitable habitat in its limited range and to pollution. The pollen of Texas wild rice can only travel about 30 inches away from a parent plant. If pollen does not land on a receptive female flower within that distance, no seeds are produced. Manchurian wild rice has almost disappeared from the wild in its native range, but has been accidentally introduced into the wild in New Zealand and is considered an invasive species there
The size of the knockers, as well as other details, are prescribed in state and tribal law. By Minnesota statute, knockers must be at most 1 inch in diameter, 30 inches long, and one pound in weight. The plants are not beaten with the knockers but require only a gentle brushing to dislodge the mature grain. The Ojibwa people call this plant manoomin meaning “good berry”. Some seeds fall to the muddy bottom and germinate later in the year.
Because of its nutritional value and taste, wild rice increased in popularity in the late 20th century, and commercial cultivation began in the US and Canada to supply the increased demand. In the US the main producers are California and Minnesota (where it is the official state grain) and it is mainly cultivated inpaddy fields. In Canada, it is usually harvested from natural bodies of water; the largest producer is the province of Saskatchewan. Wild rice is also produced in Hungary and Australia. In Hungary, cultivation started in 1974 on the rice field of Szarvas. The Indian Rice Ltd. was founded in 1990. Now, the Hungarian wild rice growing and processing is managed only by this company. In Australia production is controlled by Ricewild Pty. Ltd. at Deniliquin in Southern New South Wales
Manchurian wild rice (Chinese: 菰; pinyin: gū), gathered from the wild, was once an important grain in ancient China. Because of the difficulty of its domestication, it gradually lost importance with increasing population density, as its habitat was converted for use in raising rice. It is now very rare in the wild, and its use as a grain has completely disappeared in China, though it continues to be cultivated for its stems.
- Carbohydrates-21.34 g
- Sugars-0.73 g
- Dietary fiber-1.8 g
- Fat-0.34 g
- Protein-3.99 g
- Water-73.93 g
Nutrition and safety
Almost always sold as a dried whole grain, wild rice is high in protein, the amino acid lysine and dietary fiber, and low in fat. Like true rice, it does not contain gluten. It is also a good source of certain minerals and B vitamins.1 cup of cooked wild rice would provide 5% or more of the daily value of thiamin, riboflavin, iron, and potassium; 10% or more of the daily value of niacin, b6, folate, magnesium, phosphorus; 15% of zinc; and over 20% of manganese.
Wild rice seeds can be infected by the highly toxic fungus ergot, which is dangerous if eaten. Infected grains will have pink or purplish blotches or growths of the fungus, from the size of a seed to several times larger.