Kitchen Myths

Facts and fiction about food and cooking, by Peter Aitken

All wild rice is the same

Wild rice is a delightfully tasty grain that has many culinary uses. Its slightly chewy texture and nutty flavor make it a good match in many situations. It’s sort of pricey, though, and many people have never even heard of it. But if you want to give it a try, be aware that all “wild rice” is not the same.

True wild rice grows in shallow lakes and slow-moving streams in the north-central part of the US (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan) and adjacent areas of Canada. It has been a staple food of Native Americans for ages. It is hand-harvested and parched (to remove the husk) using wood fires. It is a medium brown color and is the more desirable (and expensive) kind of wild rice.

The other kind is not wild rice at all, really, as it is cultivated in paddies. Also, it is a genetic hybrid developed specifically for cultivation. It is machine-harvested and dried using artificial heat. It is very dark brown or almost black in color. Compared with the real stuff, it’s a bit chewier, less flavorful, and less expensive.

Both kinds of wild rice can be very tasty and used with great success in many dishes. Just be aware of the differences and shop accordingly.

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