Wild rice (genus Zizania) is also known as water rice, Indian rice, or water oats. A member of the grasses family, it is therefore not a wild species of common rice (Oryza sativa).
The grains of wild rice are used much in the same way as cereals, with the “Northern Wild Rice” (Zizania palustris) being the most commercially used. Historically, the crop was cultivated by Native Americans and is therefore also known as indigenous rice.
Wild rice is used similarly to common rice. First it should be rinsed thoroughly with cold water. Depending on the desired consistency, add two to three times the amount of boiling water. Afterward, let the rice simmer for about 30–50 minutes.
Some varieties of wild rice require longer or shorter cooking times, which are usually indicated on the package. These vary greatly in rice mixes or precooked products. However, as a rule, wild rice usually requires a longer cooking time than conventional white rice. This is a result of the drying process it undergoes. Generally, you can tell if the rice is cooked if most of the kernels have burst open and you can see their white interior.
Dark brown wild rice has a slightly nutty aroma when cooked. It is perfect as a garnish or side dish for many dishes, but also as an ingredient in soups and stews. If left to cool, it can be served together with other vegetables in salads or even combined with fruit to prepare desserts. Dried wild rice is also processed to produce grist, flakes, or flour. The flour can be used to prepare pastries and cakes.
Wild rice can be found in all major grocery stores and health food shops, such as Walmart, Whole Foods Markets, Kroger, and Safeway (United States); Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, and Holland & Barret (Great Britain); Metro, Extra Foods, and Goodness Me (Canada); Coles, Woolworths, and Harris Farm (Australia). It can also be purchased in specialty stores and on the Internet. Wild rice is commonly sold in mixed rice varieties. This is because it has a high moisture content, which makes it more expensive to store.
Wild rice keeps best when stored in a dark, cool, and dry location. Best before dates may vary depending on the product.
Wild rice is low in fat and has a good proportion of essential fatty acids. For every 100 grams, its protein levels are significantly higher than other types of cereals, with glutamic acid being the most abundant protein in wild rice. One hundred grams of wild rice covers more than 50 % of the recommended daily amounts for the essential amino acids tryptophan and valine. This is also the case with trace elements such as manganese, zinc, copper, and phosphorus. In addition, wild rice is a rich source of many other nutrients such as folic acid and niacin (née vitamin B3). For further nutritional information, see the nutrient tables below.1
Like white rice, wild rice is gluten-free, making it an excellent choice for people who have celiac disease. Unrefined wild rice provides more minerals and B vitamins than polished white rice. In addition, wild rice is a better source of fiber and high-quality protein.
Wild rice may be infected by ergot (Claviceps), which is a parasitic fungus that grows on the ears of rye and cereal plants. Infected grains are characterized by pink or purple spots, as well as accelerated “growing,” which significantly increases the number of infected grains.2
There are four species of grasses that form the genus Zizania. Three originate from North America and the fourth one is from Asia.
- Zizania aquatica is found in the temperate east and southeast regions of the US along the Atlantic coast from the St. Lawrence River to Louisiana.3
- Zizania palustris can be found in Canada as well as in the North and Midwest of the US. Until 1980 it was considered a subspecies of Zizania aquatica.3
- Zizania texana is endemic to a small part of Texas and is found on the upper San Marcos River.3
- Zizania latifolia (Griseb.) is a perennial plant native to Eastern Siberia, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Northeast India, Myanmar, and Vietnam.3
While it is very rare in the wild, “Manchurian wild rice” (Zizania latifolia) was introduced to New Zealand, where it is considered an invasive pest.
The genus Zizania was first coined by the botanist Carl von Linné (Carl Linnaeus). This word is derived from the Greek word “zizánion” which means “growing in water”. Like white rice (Oryza sativa), it also belongs to the Oryzeae tribe of the true grasses family (Poaceae).4
While considered a delicacy in North America, the grain is eaten less in China. Instead, the grass is grown for its thick, fleshy stems, which are used as vegetables. The stems of Manchurian wild rice are infected by the smut fungus, Ustilago esculenta, and are therefore prone to swelling. This inhibits the production of flowers and brings on asexual reproduction.5 In China, these vegetables are known as gau-sun (高笋) or jiaobai (茭白).
Literature — sources:
- USDA, US-Amerikanische Nährwertdatenbank.
- Peterson, Lee, A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants of Eastern and Central North America (Houghton Mifflin Company, New York City), p. 228.
- Information zur Verteilung der jeweiligen Spezies unter USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (plants.sc.egov.usda.gov/java/)
- Wikipedia (German language). Wild rice.
- Simoons, Frederick J. (1991). Food in China: a cultural and historical inquiry. CRC Press. p. 559. ISBN 978-0-8493-8804-0.