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Friday, December 2, 2011

WILD RICE - GLUTEN-FREE GRASS SEED: HISTORY, HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF WILD RICE


WILD RICE ZIZANIA PALUSTRIS/AQUATICA
Wild rice isn’t technically rice, although it can be used like rice in pilafs and so on, but a grass seeds, with rice being a close cousin in the Poaceae or Gramineae family. This means it is also related to sorghum, oats, barley, rye, wheat, maize, sugar cane and millet. Zizania palustris grows in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin in the US and in Canada in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Zizania aquatica is native to the Saint Lawrence River, and the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the US. There is Zizania texana which grows in the Saint Marcos River, but this is close to extinction because of loss of habitat and pollution. The fourth type of wild rice (there are only four known) is Zizania latifolia or Manchurian wild rice, which is native to China.
  Wild rice gets its name from the way it grows; early settlers and explorers in North America were reminded of the way rice grows in paddy field when they saw the stems rising out of the water of the Great Lakes and French explorers in Canada called it “folles avoine” or ‘crazy oats’ allegedly because of the strength and hardiness of the Native Americans who lived in the woods. It was a staple of many Native American tribes and was gathered during the period of the “rice moon” in August to September then fermented for a week or two in the sun, so that it got its distinctive black colour. Unfermented rice varies in colour from tan and green through to mid-brown and black.
  Native Americans used it like brown rice in poultices for burns and scalds as well as for stomach problems and heart, lung and liver diseases.
  Wild rice has the edge on brown rice as far as its nutritional benefits go, with traces of vitamin A, and small amounts of vitamins E and K with the B-complex vitamins, B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), folate, pantothenic acid, choline and B6. It also has all 18 amino acids but is low in lysine, but a good source of Omega-3 fatty acid and Omega-6. As for minerals it is high in phosphorous and potassium, with a good amount of magnesium and also calcium, iron, sodium, zinc, copper and selenium. It is a good source of fibre and antioxidants, and helps to lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels.
  Wild rice became fashionable in the late 1960s and early 1970s when people began to think about food and health benefits. It was later used in Nouvelle Cuisine distinguished by small pretty portions. It has a nutty, slightly peaty flavour and a chewy texture. People usually cook it in pilafs along with brown rice both for its different flavour and texture as well as to make the dish look more attractive. When it is fully fermented you have the aroma of black tea, while if it is unfermented it smells more like green tea.
  To cook wild rice, you use 1 part wild rice to 3 of boiling water. Add the wild rice and bring the water back to the boil, then reduce it to a simmer and cover the pan. You will need to cook it for about 45 minutes or until it starts to burst open. Because it takes longer to cook than rice, you should cook them separately for the best results and combine them later, fluffing up the pilaf with a fork. You can fry onions, garlic and celery to mix with it and wilt some spinach or other leafy green vegetable in olive oil and mix into the rice. Sage and thyme are good herbs to use when you cook wild rice and adding some paprika is also good, but experiment and see for yourself what goes well with it. You can combine it in our biryani recipes too, so bon appetit!

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