The History and Story of Wild Rice

The beginning of the grain date back to the Native Americans and can be used as healthy alternatives in many recipes.

| January/February 2002

“We’re not eating grass!” my kids protested when I informed them we’d be having “the grass that Native Americans ate” for dinner.

Wild rice is indeed a grass—and as my kids have learned, it’s a tasty one. Packed with fiber, carbohydrates and protein, it’s also high in B vitamins and potassium, with only 130 calories per cup of cooked rice. Although it takes about forty-five minutes to cook wild rice, it’s worth the investment of time. Once cooked, this grain freezes beautifully and thaws quickly, so it’s a boon for harried cooks. Cook extra for freezing, and you’ll always have a filling side dish or hot cereal substitute on hand.

Mahnomin or manoomin—Ojibwe for “good seed”—has long been an important dietary staple to Native peoples of the upper Great Lakes area. Ojibwe and neighboring Dakota natives once fought over access to marshy areas where this aquatic grass grows. Ojibwe consider wild rice a gift from the spirits and include it in nearly every ceremonial occasion.

There are many uses for this versatile grain. With its earthy aroma and firm texture, wild rice can stand unadorned as a distinctive side dish. Yet its taste blends so well with other flavors that you’ll want to try substituting wild rice in recipes calling for other grains. To wake up texture, toss a little cooked and frozen wild rice into the batter for muffins, pancakes, or waffles. For a sweet conclusion to your meal, puree wild rice with apricot preserves for a low-fat dessert topping whose play of sweetness against nuttiness works especially well with chocolate. My family enjoys this topping as a frosting alternative on chocolate cake and brownies.

Wild rice should be rinsed and drained before cooking, and it quadruples in volume once cooked. One cup of uncooked rice plus four cups water, simmered for forty-five minutes, produces four cups of cooked rice.


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