Wild rice--zizania palustris
What does mahnomen mean? According to Warren Upham, in his book, Minnesota Geographic Names, mahnomen, also spelled mahnoomin, is the Ojibwa word for wild rice. Its scientific name is Zizania palustris, and it grows wild on rivers and lakes in harmony with the earth. According to the kstrom.net website (see under links, more reading about wild rice), the month that wild rice is harvested is called Manoominike Giizis.
Wild rice harvesting is traditionally done by hand from canoes and is labor intensive. One person steers the canoe and the other person bends the plant over the keel and strikes it so that the grains fall into the canoe. This is the way that the Anishinaabeg (Ojibwa) have harvested mahnomen for hundreds of years. When you eat traditional wild rice, you are part of this tradition, part of this food chain. Wild rice is pure and organic and loved by cooks for its unique nutty flavor.
Here's the bad news. At the same time that wild rice crops have diminished in their native habitats, fewer Anishinaabeg became willing to harvest it, and when the food producers realized how much of a market there was for wild rice, they started cultivating it--think giant rice paddies, tons of chemicals, and huge machines to harvest the rice.
How to choose authentic Indian wild rice
When buying wild rice, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the business Native American owned? If you buy Native American, you support Native American.
- Are you buying from the big agribusiness or a small tribal business? After all, if you can buy artisanal cheeses to support cheesemakers, why not support the traditional way of life?
- Where is it harvested? I like Bineshi because it is located in Leech Lake, which is where my Meti ancestor was born. I like the Indian wild rice website because I had a Lac Court Oreille ancestor too.
- How is the rice harvested? The traditional way by hand froma canoe which doesn't damage the vegetation? You're good. Canoe vs giant machine--which way is in harmony with nature?
- How is it parched? The traditional way by wood or by propane?
- Are the batches mixed? According to the Bineshii website, they don't mix batches, so all your rice comes from the same location--river bed or pond--kind of like apples from the same tree.
Sources for authentic Indian wild rice
- Indian Wild Rice
This wild rice is hand harvested from Chippewa Lakes.
- Wild Rice
The Bineshii site carries wild rice and other gifts from the Leech Lake Indian Reservation.
- Wild Rice
For more reading about the traditional methods of harvesting wild rice.
- Distributors of Ojibwe Wild Rice
Ojibwe wild rice harvesters and destributors in Michigan and Wisconsin.
- Eden Foods: Another Leech Lake Ojibwe source
- Thanksgiving dinner | Sma11fish's Blog
How I incorporated wild rice into my Thanksgiving dinner menu.
Nutritional qualities of wild ice
Wild rice is high in protein and niacin, which is important for heart health and has been used to lower triglycerides. It is also low in fat and gluten free.
I am making wild rice today as a side dish for duckling a l'orange. I looked on the label and couldn't tell where the rice came from, which means it is probably not authentic, traditional wild rice.
I'm a little sad, because authentic wild rice is so good, for example in wild rice soup, especially cream based soups or with a little chicken added.
What is wild rice? It is not actually rice but Zizania palustris which is a grass, Accordiing to the USDA, its classification is:.
Kingdom Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta –
Flowering plantsClass Liliopsida – Monocotyledons
Family Poaceae – Grass family
Genus Zizania L. – wildrice
Species Zizania palustris L. – northern wildrice
(http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ZIPA3, accessed 11/25/2010)