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All about “Wild rice”

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Health profile

Wild rice has a different botanical origin than other types of rice. Indeed, it is not exactly a variety of rice, but rather the seed of an aquatic grass plant. Found especially in the United States and Canada, wild rice has been part of the Native American diet for several centuries. Its very dark color and its flavor slightly reminiscent of hazelnut make it an interesting food to bring variety and originality to our plate.

Active ingredients and properties

Canadian wild rice: really “wild”
Canadian wild rice grows and is processed without adding chemicals or additives, making it a unique natural food of its kind 20 .

Grain products are of great importance for our diet. One of Health Canada’s Dietary Guidelines for the Health of Canadians advises that “most cereals, breads and other grain products, as well as vegetables and fruits” 1 . The Canada Food Guide to Healthy Eating recognizes this recommendation and emphasizes the choice of grain products whole grain or enriched 2 . The American authorities, for their part, recommend that at least half of the cereal products consumed be whole grain 3 .

Indeed, epidemiological studies have observed that the consumption of whole grains is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes 4 , certain cancers , 6 and obesity , 8 . These beneficial effects would be linked to the synergy between the many compounds contained in whole grain cereal products, such as fibers, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. As the majority of these compounds are contained in the bran and the germ 9 , it is advantageous to consume the least refined cereals possible.

Wild rice has been the subject of few recent studies on its properties and potential active ingredients. Some authors suggest that the fact that some grains have a very pronounced color – as is the case with wild rice – could be an indication of a content rich in phytonutrients potentially beneficial for health 10 . Although there is still much to discover about wild rice, we nevertheless know that some of its nutritional facets distinguish it from ordinary rice.

Protein. When it comes to protein , wild rice is more beneficial than regular rice. First of all, wild rice contains a higher amount 11,12 . According to the Canadian Nutrient File , a 125ml serving of cooked wild rice contains 3.5g of protein, compared to about 2.5g on average for other types of rice. In addition, the protein in wild rice is a bit more complete than that of regular rice, as it is higher in lysine, an essential amino acid that is generally not abundant in grains. This is because wild rice contains almost twice as much lysine as other types of rice, whether white or brown.

Dietary fiber. Chinese wild rice has a higher dietary fiber content than white rice 12 . The same goes for Canadian wild rice: a 125 mL serving of cooked wild rice contains 1.6 g of dietary fiber, up to four times more than some white rices (0.4 g). Wild rice thus has a fiber content equivalent to that of brown rice. It is known that a diet rich in a variety of fibers can help maintain adequate bowel function , decrease the risk of colon cancer, as well as normalize blood levels of cholesterol , glucose and insulin 13 .

Other properties

Is wild rice an antioxidant? Data not available.
Is wild rice acidifying? Data not available.
Does wild rice have a high glycemic load? Moderately . The glycemic load of 87 g of wild rice is 11.

Most important nutrients

See the meaning of the nutrient source classification symbols

 Phosphorus . Wild rice is a source of phosphorus (see our Phosphorus nutrient list ). Phosphorus is the body’s second most abundant mineral after calcium. It plays a vital role in building and maintaining healthy bones and teeth. In addition, it participates among other things in the growth and regeneration of tissues and helps maintain normal blood pH . Finally, phosphorus is one of the constituents of cell membranes.

 Magnesium . Wild rice is a source of magnesium. Magnesium is involved in bone development, protein building, enzymatic reactions, muscle contraction, dental health and the proper functioning of the immune system. It also plays a role in the metabolism of energy and in the transmission of nerve impulses.

 Iron . Wild rice is a source of iron for men only, the needs of men and women are different. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the manufacture of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses).

 Zinc . Wild rice is a source of zinc. Zinc is involved in particular in immune reactions, in the production of genetic material, in the perception of taste, in the healing of wounds and in the development of the fetus. It also interacts with sex and thyroid hormones. In the pancreas, it participates in the synthesis (manufacture), storage and release of insulin.

 Manganese . Wild rice is a source of manganese. Manganese acts as a cofactor of several enzymes that facilitate a dozen different metabolic processes. It also participates in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals .

 Copper . Wild rice is a source of copper. As a component of several enzymes, copper is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin and collagen (a protein used for the structure and repair of tissues) in the body. Several copper-containing enzymes also help in the body’s defense against free radicals.

 Vitamin B2 . Wild rice is a source of vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin. Like vitamin B1, it plays a role in the energy metabolism of all cells. In addition, it helps in the growth and repair of tissues, the production of hormones and the formation of red blood cells.

  Vitamin B3 . Wild rice is a source of vitamin B3. Also called niacin, this vitamin is involved in many metabolic reactions and particularly contributes to the production of energy from the carbohydrates, fats, proteins and alcohol that we ingest. It also participates in the process of DNA formation , allowing normal growth and development.

 Vitamin B6 . Wild rice is a source of vitamin B6. Vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine, is part of coenzymes involved in the metabolism of proteins and fatty acids as well as in the synthesis of neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It also helps make red blood cells and allows them to carry more oxygen. Pyridoxine is also necessary for the transformation of glycogen into glucose and it contributes to the proper functioning of the immune system. Finally, this vitamin plays a role in the formation of certain components of nerve cells and in the modulation of hormone receptors.

 Folate . Wild rice is a source of folate. Folate (vitamin B9) is involved in the manufacture of all cells in the body, including red blood cells. This vitamin plays an essential role in the production of genetic material (DNA, RNA), in the functioning of the nervous system and the immune system, as well as in the healing of wounds and wounds. As it is necessary for the production of new cells, adequate consumption is essential during periods of growth and for the development of the fetus.

What is a “portion” of wild rice worth?
Weight / volume Wild rice, cooked, 125 mL / 87 g
Calories 88
Protein 3.5 g
Carbohydrates 18.5 g
Lipids 0.3 g
Dietary fiber 1.6 g

Source  : Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File , 2005.

Both Harmful and Beneficial Compounds in Cereals
Cereal grains contain phytochemicals . Phytic acid, one of the most abundant microconstituents in grain, is a good example. This compound, which is found in greater quantities in the outer shell of the grain (bran) and in the germ, has the ability to bind to certain minerals (calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc) and thus reduce their absorption. in the intestine. However, researchers agree that, in a North American context, where there is abundance and dietary diversity and where nutritional deficiency is rather marginal, this effect has little impact on health. The consumption of phytic acid (or phytate) would even be beneficial since it acts as an antioxidantin the body. Indeed, phytic acid and more precisely its derivatives, could help protect against colon cancer and even against cardiovascular disease. These effects, observed in vitro and in animals, have not yet been validated in humans.

Celiac Disease Celiac
disease, also known as gluten intolerance , enteropathy or hypersensitivity , affects about 4 in 1,000 people in North America. People with this condition have a permanent intolerance to gluten, a protein found in the grains of many cereals. This protein is toxic to people with celiac disease, and consuming it can lead to intestinal symptoms, such as malabsorption of several nutrients. The treatment for this disease consists of completely excluding gluten from the diet.

The regular rice is considered safe for people intolerant to gluten. On the other hand, oats are still subject to reservations about their safety for people with celiac disease, and wild rice is said to be more related to oats than to regular rice 16 . However, although the Canadian Celiac Association mentions that wild rice has not been officially tested for this purpose, this organization and several other 17-19 currently consider that this food is safe to eat by people with intolerance. gluten.


Contaminants that may be found in the places of harvest

Since wild rice is harvested in various natural environments, vigilance is required regarding the environmental pollutants potentially present in these environments. It is indeed possible that some crops are unintentionally contaminated with heavy metals. Some researchers have found moderately high heavy metal content in samples of wild rice from the United States and Canada 14 , 15 . However, these researchers observed that lead, in particular, was found more concentrated in the roots of the plant, a part which is not consumed. They nevertheless stress the importance of carrying out further studies to assess any possible risk to human health.


Wild rice over time

Appeared in the language at the end of XIII th  century, the term ”  discord  “, whose origin is Semitic, has designated first the tares, weeds growing in the wheat fields and figuratively, discord , arguments. Since 1829, it designates the grasses belonging to the genus Zizania .

The name “  wild rice  ” was given to discord by settlers fresh from the New World because, like rice, it grows in water. However, rice rather belongs to the genus Oryza .

Manoomin , the name given to wild rice by the Anishnaabeg, means “good grain” or “good berry”.

Native Americans have been harvesting, drying, and consuming wild rice for thousands of years. Its richness in proteins and carbohydrates made it a first-class food and its importance was such for the tribes living in the region of the Great Lakes that it accounted for 25% of the daily ration.

A sacred plant if there is one, wild rice has given rise to many myths and legends surrounding its creation and that of the peoples who fed on it, particularly among the Ojibwés, or Anishnaabegs, as they prefer to be called. On the autumn moon, the “wild rice moon,” they set up their camps near the lakes and, during the few weeks that the harvest lasted, they spent their days on the water filling their canoes with the precious manna, while the evenings were spent drying the grain by the fire while listening to the storytellers recall the ancestors’ long journey to the West, in search of a welcoming land. The spirits were invoked to ask them for a good harvest and then thanked by offering them small containers of wild rice which were placed in the places where they were supposed to be. It was, in a way, Thanksgiving in the Native American way.

wild rice In the context of industrial agriculture, the expression “wild rice” loses all its meaning since cultivated wild rice differs considerably from its wild cousin. Hence a recent regulation adopted in Minnesota stipulating that packages of cultivated wild rice must bear the mention paddy rice appended to the generic name wild rice. However, this regulation only applies to wild rice produced in Minnesota.

Four species of Zizania are known , including one native to Asia and three to North America, where they inhabit the shallow waters of lakes and rivers, from the northern end of Lake Winnipeg to the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and to the Atlantic to the east. However, it is to the north and west of the Great Lakes, where the species Z. palustris grows , that the activities surrounding the harvest and processing of this plant by the Amerindians have been concentrated. In this vast region that covers Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as Ontario and Manitoba, wild rice is still widely consumed by the Anishnaabegs, as are the Menominees, the “wild rice people.”

In the 1950s, the Americans began work to domesticate wild grass in order to increase its productivity and facilitate its harvest by mechanical means. A few varieties have been selected and, since the 1970s, they have been cultivated on a large scale on marshy lands using methods similar to those used for rice: construction of dikes to flood the soil in spring and to evacuate water in the fall, mechanization of sowing, thinning and harvesting operations, recourse to fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, chemical insecticides, etc. After harvest, the grain is shipped to processing plants for drying and husking. Most of the discord offered in commerce today comes from this type of exploitation.

Alongside these great crops, there remains a small cottage industry, maintained mainly by the Amerindians who harvest by hand the grain of natural stands and dry it on site as their ancestors did. It goes without saying that the production volume is very low and labor costs are high, but gourmets argue that the flavor and texture of the grain so processed is significantly superior to cultivated wild rice.

Culinary uses

Choose well

To ensure that you are dealing with truly wild rice, check that the packaging includes one of the following statements: lake wild rice, hand-picked wild rice, hand-harvested wild rice (riz wild lake, wild rice picked or harvested by hand).


Rinse the rice under running water before cooking it. Calculate about one cup of rice for three cups of water. You can cook it on the stove or in an oven set to 175 ° C (350 ° F). Cooking takes 30 to 60 minutes depending on the variety, but it usually takes 45 to 50 minutes on the stovetop and one hour in the oven. The kernels should be split and show a white core, but should not be curled (a sign that they are overcooked). If necessary, drain the rice at the end of cooking.

Culinary preparations

The majority of recipes created for whole rice or white rice are suitable for wild rice, as long as you adjust the cooking time accordingly.

  • Traditionally, the people of the Great Lakes boiled wild rice with beans, corn or squash . To these foods could be added a piece of meat, maple syrup and fat.
  • In soups , for example a tomato or minestrone soup.
  • In a rice pudding , with maple syrup and raisins or dates.
  • Rice pilaf with mushrooms: brown the onion, garlic and celery in the oil, add wild rice and, if desired, whole rice, stir to coat the grains well with oil, add of vegetable or chicken broth, and simmer for an hour. Melt mushrooms in butter or oil, add them to the rice with a spoonful of balsamic vinegar and a good amount of chopped parsley, and serve. You can also stuff a poultry with this preparation.
  • To vary, add fresh peas to this preparation and season with soy sauce.
  • Pancakes can be made from cooked wild rice, flour, eggs, water and milk. Mix the ingredients thoroughly, let stand at least half an hour, then cook like regular pancakes.
  • Wild Rice Salad: Toss cooked wild rice with chopped figs, celery and onion, nuts and dry roasted pistachios in a skillet. Drizzle with mustard vinaigrette and serve chilled.
  • Asian salad: replace the figs from the previous recipe with prunes, add slices of shiitake, the green part of a young onion and chopped cilantro. Drizzle with a vinaigrette made with walnut and sesame oils, orange juice and soy sauce. Garnish with lemon zest.
  • Rice and Lentil Salad: Cook lentils and wild rice separately, then mix them together. Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve with orange wedges.
  • Wild Niçoise: crumbled tuna, cooked wild rice, pieces of green beans, sundried tomatoes and olives. Serve on young lettuce and drizzle with olive oil.
  • In tomatoes, zucchini or stuffed peppers , with onions, mushrooms and herbs. Garnish with grated cheese and brown.
  • Or stuff cabbage leaves with a mixture of raw wild rice and ground beef, minced onion and chopped parsley. Roll loosely to form papillotes which will gently brown in olive oil. Cover with broth and braise for about 45 minutes. Keep the papillotes warm, reduce the broth, add sour cream, heat and coat the papillotes with this sauce.


Wild rice will keep for at least a year in an airtight container, protected from light and heat.

Refrigerator: cooked, you can keep it for one or two weeks.

Freezer: cooked, a few months.

Ecology and environment

Duck Seed
Wild rice is the food of choice for the various species of ducks and other waterfowl that inhabit the waters and rivers of North America. This is, moreover, one of the reasons which led to its establishment in regions where it was not indigenous.

In Wisconsin and Minnesota, stands of wild rice have declined by almost half over the past century. The Anishnaabeg, who have harvested this cereal there for generations, have also noticed that the plants are smaller than they were 30 or 40 years ago. Various factors are cited to explain this trend, including variations in water levels caused by the construction of roads, dikes and ditches, increased pollution and motor boat traffic, introduction of weeds exotic, etc.

Minnesota is considered the center of wild rice biodiversity. What particularly worries the Anishnaabegs is the risk of genetic erosion that threatens this plant. Erosion by modern varieties which can easily cross with wild varieties. Potential erosion by a new patented variety, whose male plants are sterile, a trait that could be communicated to wild stands if grown in their vicinity. There is also a risk of erosion if, following the sequencing of wild grass, which is currently underway at the University of Minnesota, genetically modified varieties are created and grown, which would have the effect of contaminating the many wild varieties. that have been formed over the millennia. For the moment, no project of this nature exists,

In order to deal with such an eventuality, the organization White Earth Land Recovery Project created by Anishinaabegs of the White Earth reserve (Minnesota) is trying to pass a law prohibiting any future introduction of genetically modified varieties of wild rice in Minnesota. The members of this organization have also undertaken to work to preserve natural stands, to re-establish the traditions surrounding grain harvesting on the reserve and to make them known to the general public. In recognition of its action, the organization received the Slow Food Prize in 2003 for its fight to preserve this genetic and cultural heritage.

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