September is National Rice Month! I thought I would take the opportunity Rice Month affords to promote a true canadian food that is grown in my home province of Saskatchewan: wild rice.

Wild rice (also called Canada rice, Indian rice, and water oats) is really the seeds of a grass which historically grew in north america and in small areas of asia (the grain is no longer eaten in China, where the plant’s stem is used as a vegetable). Wild rice is not directly related to Asian rice. Wild rice is high in protein (double that of brown rice) and dietary fiber, and low in fat. Like true rice, it does not contain gluten. Unlike much of the cultivated or paddy-grown American wild rice, Canadian harvests focus on rice grown organically in natural bodies of water. Wild rice is a challenging crop to grow and is not suitable for large-scale production….which sadly makes it one of the most expensive types of rice.

Wild rice starts out as a short thin glossy grain dark brown to black in colour, which like traditional rice will puff and expand to 3-4 times its size when boiled. Wild rice doesn’t get as soft as traditional rices, but rather has a nice chewy texture. The taste is a mildly smokey – nutty.

To celebrate the day, my mom and I made a simple wild rice pilaf to go with some excellent BBQed ribs we were cooking. First we tossed some mixed veggies (baby squash, shallots, mushrooms, peppers, etc.) in a little olive oil, balsamic and rosemary, and then grilled them on the BBQ. While they were cooking, the wild rice was cooking in 1/2 water, 1/2 beef stock. Wild rice is prepared just like regular rice – though wild rice will not soak up as much water as traditional rice, so you may want to put in 1.5 units of liquid for each unit of dry rice. The rice took about 45-50 minutes to cook on a soft simmer.

Once the rice is done, drain any excess water/broth. Heat a knob of butter in a big frying pan, then toss in the veggies and the rice. Saute until everything is hot, and give a liberal once over with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, with a nice red wine and those ribs. 🙂

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p s- while this might not effect your choice to eat wild rice, I thought you might get a kick out this video. Wild rice is not cut to harvest the seeds, but rather the seeds are knocked off into a flat bottomed “airboats” that skims over the water (and the grass). It’s a weird looking contraption, but it works!