Wild rice isn’t actually rice, and it’s not really wild. This indigenous grass produces utterly delicious seeds.
Nutty and woodsy in fragrance and flavor, wild rice is an American Indian staple. But much of what’s sold takes about an hour to cook. The game changer is Quick-Cook Wild Rice from Red Lake Nation Foods, which can be prepared in 25 minutes.
The cooking time for wild rice is dependent on how it’s been parched and processed. “The moisture content in wild rice will vary depending on the season’s growing conditions,” explained Joel Rohde, manager at Red Lake Nation Foods. “When we process the wild rice, we’re drying it and buffing down the bran layer. The longer it’s processed, the more quickly it will cook.” It makes no difference if the rice has been cultivated in the tribe’s nearby rivers or naturally seeded in the lake and harvested by hand in canoes.
Wild rice that’s traditionally parched over a wood fire will have a mild, smoky flavor. After it has been dried and hulled, the wild rice is graded for thickness and length, with A being the thickest, followed by B or C. The Grade A rice is packaged for sale and the lesser grades are used in wild rice products.
Red Lake Nation in northern Minnesota is the only native operation in the U.S. that grows, harvests, processes, packs and ships wild rice from its tribal lands. It also packages wild rice blended with long grain white rice, or basmati or brown rice, as well as what it calls “soup bits” (broken bits of cultivated wild rice).
“We are shipping more and more wild rice products over to China, Taiwan, Israel and England, each year,” Rohde said.
The tribe’s wild rice flour and pancake mix are available online, as is its traditionally processed wood-parched lake wild rice and organic Canadian lake wild rice.
“The wild rice flour has become increasingly popular thanks to the interest in gluten-free flours,” Rohde said.
The 12-ounce boxes of Quick Cook Wild Rice contain two (6-ounce) meal packs and retail for about $7. They are available in most grocery stores and co-ops. For the full range of wild rice products, go to redlakenationfoods.com.