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The first thing you should know about wild rice is that it’s not actually a rice.  Who knew, right?  It’s actually a grass, and what we think of as wild rice is actually the seed of native, long-grain, North American marsh grass.  It is wild however, at least in it’s original form.  Nowadays, the majority of the varieties that are sold are cultivated varieties (mostly grown in California and Minnesota) that do not occur naturally.  We call it wild, though, because that’s where it started, and in fact, wild rice does still grow in some places.  It occurs naturally mostly in the upper freshwater lakes of Canada, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota these days, but at one time, it stretched from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi Valley and was a staple in the diets of Native Americans.  If stored correctly, wild rice can last a really long time, so it was an essential part of the winter diets of many Native American tribes.  In nature, wild rice grows in shallow water in small lakes and slow-flowing streams, but it is generally cultivated for sale in paddy fields.

Wild rice has been growing in popularity for years, and for good reason: It’s delicious and nutritious.  It has a nutty flavor, chewy texture and purple color, and it’s loaded with nutrients.  It has twice the protein (one cup yields about 6.5 grams of protein and contains all of the essential amino acids) and fiber of brown rice and is high in B vitamins, iron, manganese, zinc, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium.  Another great thing about wild rice: It’s low in calories.  Some people like to mix it with brown rice to create a flavor that’s a bit more subtle.  Wild rice takes longer to cook than white and brown rice (and black), but the time is considerably shorter than it might be if it weren’t processed.  During processing, wild rice is hulled like other rices and then scarified, which means that the surface of the outer bran is scratched.  Scarifying lets the rice cook faster but saves its nutrients, unlike the process of polishing white rice.  Another plus: Wild rice is gluten-free (but watch out for boxed varieties which can contain some gluten).

If you’re thinking you want to give wild rice a try, please do!  You’ll be doing your taste buds and your body a favor!  To cook wild rice, make sure you rinse it well to remove any unwanted particles, then add 3 cups of water or broth for every cup of wild rice.  Bring your rice to a boil, then cover and simmer for 50 to 60 minutes.  You can also cook your wild rice in the over or microwave.  To cook it in the oven, use the same 1:3 ratio of rice to water, rinse, cook the rice and water in a casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid in a 350 degree oven for an hour.  In the microwave, cook your rice in a microwave safe container with a tight-fitting lid for 5 minutes on high, then 30 minutes on medium.

Here are few of our favorite wild rice recipes:

Wild Rice and Edamame Salad 

Wild Rice and Mushroom Pilaf

Roast Turkey with Wild Rice, Sausage, and Apple Stuffing

We try everyday to bring you big flavors with lots of nutrition–fast!  That’s what Brown Bag means when we say we make “cuisine on the fly.”  If you’re looking for a new flavor that will pack nutrition into every bite, give wild rice a try!  You’ve got nothing to lose and a whole lot of fiber and protein to gain!