First of all, I suppose, is because it’s…wild. Second, it’s been a cottage industry. Ricing was a two-people-per-boat proposition – poler and knocker. The poler moved the canoe through the rice bed. The knocker bent the stems over and struck ‘em together, so the rice fell into the bottom of the canoe. Some kernels fell into the water to re-seed the rice beds.
That’s the way wild rice is still harvested on certain American Indian reservations – by hand, in boats. In 2001, Winona LaDuke of the White Earth Land Recovery Project wrote:
Wild rice or zizania palustris is actually a grass, sharing only some genetic strains with other rice crops internationally. That special nature is part of what drives its niche market and the millions of dollars now behind the industry. Over the past thirty years what the Creator gave to the Anishinaabeg has become a profit making enterprise for many others.
The $21 million wild rice business is largely dominated by just a few paddy rice firms. Their interest in genetic work on wild rice stems largely from their own economic interests, not environmental, humanitarian, or tribal interests.
Wild rice is Minnesota’s official state grain, with 4-6 million pounds produced annually. Minnesota is one of the world’s largest cultivated wild rice-growing states. But California is now tops in wild rice production. And there is marketing for wild rice: A California Wild Rice Advisory Board; a Minnesota Cultivated Wild Rice Council too. Together, they support the International Wild Rice Association. Visit the IWRA website and you’ll find some mighty nice recipes.
Today you won’t have click through. Barbara’s got her pretty-darn-famous wild rice dish ready to take to the Martins’ house for dinner – we’re looking forward to the get-together. The Barbara Nytes-Baron Genuine Minnesota Wild Rice Casserole recipe goes like this.
First, get some wild rice – we’d be glad if you purchased it from one of the tribal stores up north like the White Lake Ojibwe or Red Lake Nation. (“Cultivated wild rice” is an oxymoron.)
1 cup wild rice
1 can chicken stock
½ cup dried fruit, hydrated in wine
¼ cup dried mushrooms, hydrated in wine
¼ cup chopped onions
¼ cup chopped black olives
¼ cup chopped celery
¼ cup chopped nuts
Butter or olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Soak fruit and mushrooms
Sauté the onions, olives, celery and nuts in the butter or oil
Mix all in a 1-quart casserole
Bake with the turkey for 1 to 2 hours (usually at 325°F)
Stir during second hour, cover with foil
Rice should be cooked and liquid evaporated – add more liquid (wine, stock) if the rice needs to cook more. Serve hot. May your 2009 Thanksgiving holiday be blessed.