|Wild ricing on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation.|
That food--wild rice that thrives in the shallows of Minnesota and Wisconsin lakes--sustained them and remains a cherished part of their culture.
Celebrate the Wild Rice MoonIn late August and early September--the time of the Wild Rice Moon--tribal members and others head across the state to ricing lakes.
|Raw wild rice from the Crow Wing lakes.|
We watched a few ricers head onto Nature Lake. They expertly captured wild rice grains with skills passed through the generations. Later, we watched water-rich green rice meticulously parched in iron drums that rotated over wood fires in Cass Lake. Once it dried and chaff was removed, bags of processed rice piled up with the name of the ricer written across burlap bags.
Hand-harvest wild rice vs. cultivatedThe thick, plump mottled earth tones of hand-harvested wild rice is clearly a different product than cultivated rice. Cultivated rice, with its shiny, thin ebony grains are bred to be machine-harvested. With the tough hulls, it takes 45 minutes to cook. True wild rice takes only 20 minutes. The White Earth Band of Ojibwe has long fought to highlight the differences and to maintain this sacred crop.
|Green wild rice ready for processing|
Wild rice across the stateAnyone can rice, and many people do it as a seasonal passion. A license is required through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which can also help you find accessible rivers and shallow lakes. (Only tribal members can rice on reservations.) Following waterfowl helps, too--the rice is their equivalent of an energy bar for the long migration south.
|Wild rice on a stalk.|
More on wild rice: Best places to dine on wild rice plus two excellent wild rice recipes for the holidays.