How to Harvest Wild Rice

The "wild rice" that is purchased in stores is processed so the grains will be very hard (it helps them remain intact during processing so that people can purchase long, uniform grains). However, to produce grains pleasing to the eye, it comes at a cost--the grains don't cook as soft they otherwise should. Hand-gathered and hand-processed wild rice cooks very soft (the texture is not that dissimilar to cultivated rice) and tastes wonderful.


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    Find a large area inhabited by wild rice and with shallow water that is relatively easy to pole through.
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    Have one person pole the canoe slowly through the wild rice.
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    Have another person knock the stems after bending them over into the canoe so the loose spikelets will drop into the canoe bottom. You can use two wooden sticks called knockers; see the video below for the motion needed.
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    Collect the wild rice on a tarp. The arrays of spikelets at the top of the plant harbor caterpillars (called rice worms), small rice hoppers, several species of spiders, ladybird beetles, and other insects. The carpet of rice on the bottom of the canoe will probably be teeming with life.
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    Let the rice dry out (takes about 2-3 days of dry weather).
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    Place the rice in a very large iron pan and parch it over the coals. The trick here is to dry the rice and make the "husks" brittle, but not burn the rice. It takes a moment to work out the temperature. It's useful to remove the pan every now and again, along with lots of moving and flipping of the rice.
    • Here are the parched rice grains, which turn a golden brown after being heated (they were very light tan).
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    Once parched, put the rice in a pit lined with a hide.
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    The point now is to do the twist. Use the balls of your feet and move your heels left and right, twisting the "hulls" off the grains. For this process, you need something that grips the rice, like braintan (or rubber soles are used a lot today). You do not stamp up and down on the rice (this doesn't accomplish the prying and twisting that is needed to rip the "hulls" off).
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    After the rice has been thoroughly trodden on (it took about 10 minutes for this small batch), it is taken out and placed in a large container for winnowing.
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    The winnowing is done with a downward motion of the container, which moves all the chaff to the front of the bowl (away from the person winnowing), where it can be rather easily removed. Much of it flies away within the "vacuum" that is created by the downward motion of the bowl, and other, larger material can be cleared by the hand or blown away with a light breath.
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    Here is the completed, winnowed rice. Notice that there are lots of long grains (some broken ones too), but no chaff to get in the way of enjoying the rice.


  • The Ojibwa call northern wild rice "manoomin" or "good berry".
  • In some places, like in the state of Minnesota, you must purchase a license in order to go ricing.
  • One also gets to see a lot of wildlife while ricing (birds, fish, mammals).

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