Native American Wild Rice

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February 2018

Ojibwe Women harvesting Wild Rice in Minnesota. Photo credit: Midwest Living Magazine

EDEN Wild Rice is authentic whole grain, delicious, tender, and brown. It grows wild in lakes, streams, and rivers in the far northern Midwest. It is hand harvested by Native Americans in canoes, as now required by law. Traditional hardwood fire parching is used to dry it, and this greatly adds to its appeal.

What most Americans know as wild rice is not wild rice at all. It is a long, black, hybrid grain created to be large-scale chemically grown in California rice paddies. It is not delicious and is very hard (unchewable) even after cooking. Real wild rice will not grow in stagnant waters.

Wild rice Zizania palustrisis is a rare, North American indigenous whole grain, seed of an annual aquatic reed-supported grass. It has been sacred to the northern Native Americans for more than 12,000 years. There are several kinds, but only the northern varieties are delicious and eaten as a cereal grain.

Long, long ago, the Ojibwe people living along the Atlantic coast of Turtle Island (North America) were visited by eight prophets who gave them seven prophecies to follow. The third one directed them to travel west until they found the place where "food grows on water," and to end their migration there. West of the Great Lakes they discovered vast beds of wild rice and settled. Wild rice has been a cultural centerpiece and sustenance of their communities since then.

Traditional Harvesting and Handling

EDEN Wild Rice comes from the Leech Lake band of Ojibwa in northern Minnesota. They harvest by canoe several times during the season, because the seeds mature over time. Traditional harvest methods only take grains that are perfectly ripe, and some grains spill into the lake. Between what is spilled, and what is left on the heads, seeding for the next year's crop is assured.

On early mornings of the Ojibwa wild rice-making moon (end of August to mid-September), hundreds of canoes containing two tribe members pole into the reeds. Other boat types and gasoline motors are not allowed. The poler stands in the back and guides the canoe using a 20-foot-long forked pole, while the knocker or harvester sits or stands in the middle. The poler spots dark patches of ripe rice and guides the canoe through the reeds. The knocker uses two cedar wood sticks, that look like large drumsticks, to harvest the rice. Alternating left to right, the knocker uses one stick to pull the stalks over the canoe, and the other to tap the loose, ripe rice into the canoe. This method leaves unripe grain on the head. When the canoe is full, with about 400 pounds, the harvesters take the rice to shore where it is parch dried before winnowing to remove its chaff. The roasting makes it storable and imparts a characteristic nutty flavor and aroma. The ricers repeat the harvest ritual every few days until the harvest is complete. Link to Photo Essay

Fake hybrid wild rice is chemically paddy grown and packed in boxes with images of Native Americans and canoes. California and a few other states have no label laws against this. Fraudsters are allowed to sell the imitation for the real thing throughout the U.S., so when you see what is called wild rice in shops, 80 percent of the time it is not wild rice, but a vastly inferior and adulterated imitation.

Authentic wild rice ranges in color from light brown, to green-brown, to deep brown. It cooks up light and fluffy in 25 to 30 minutes, and it is very delicious.

Imitation paddy-grown wild rice is long, black to dark brown, very hard, takes a long time to cook, has little taste, and is tough to chew.

Sacred and Ecologically Vital

For northern Native Americans, wild rice is more than a staple food. It is a gift from the Great Spirit and a sacred component of their culture, honored in their history, tradition, ceremony, and way of life.

Wild rice is vital to the ecology of thousands of northern lakes, streams, and rivers. These waterlands are naturally reseeded, providing sustainable food, habitat, and vitality to the ecosystem. The tall wild rice reed stands are a unique habitat for thousands of waterfowl, fish, and other wildlife that rely on them. They provide a broad-spectrum abundance of life and purification.

This authentic wild rice supports Native American culture and livelihood. At the same time, it supports the ecology and vitality of the Great Lakes region, which encompasses 88 percent of North America's surface fresh water and 23 percent of the world's fresh water supply. For more information, see Eden's article, Wild Rice Notes.

Staple Whole Grain

Enjoyment of authentic EDEN Wild Rice need not be limited to holidays and special occasions. It received Vegetarian Times 'Best Go-To Grain' award. They said, "If plain brown rice is your only go-to grain, it's time to branch out. EDEN Wild Rice takes first place for its unique earthy flavors and fabulous texture."

This delicious, light and fluffy, 100 percent whole grain can be used as a staple grain year-round in soups, stews, salads, grain patties, stir fries, desserts, pancakes, waffles, muffins, and bread making. It can be served on its own or cooked with other grains. Combine it with vegetables, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit for delicious stuffing. For many free recipes, visit

EDEN Wild Rice is a good source of manganese, high-quality protein, good fiber, complex carbohydrates, niacin B3, magnesium, and zinc. It also provides essential B vitamins. Its protein content is equal to that of oats and higher than normal rice, hard wheats, and corn. It is gluten free and packed in handy, reclosable, protective standing pouches. kosher pareve.