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Extension > Food > Farm to School > Minnesota Toolkit for School Foodservice > Promoting Food > Promoting Wild Rice

Promoting Wild Rice

Students:

Parents:

Teachers:

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Dear Classroom Teacher:

Your students will have the opportunity to sample wild rice on DATE during lunch. Please take a couple minutes on DATE to inform your students about locally grown wild rice. Simply read the following paragraph to your class and share any additional facts you find interesting.

Wild rice is Minnesota's official state grain. Once native throughout Minnesota, today it grows mainly in the central and northern part of the state. This ancient grain has been found in layers of the earth dating back some 12,000 years. Wild rice is a very healthy food and is considered a whole grain when cooked in its original, harvested form. It is a superior source of B vitamins like thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin, and is rich in minerals, particularly zinc and potassium. Wild rice is not rice at all but a long-grain marsh grass. It is the only cereal grain native to North America. The Native American word for wild rice is “manoomin,” which is pronounced mah-NOH-men. The wild rice plant looks like green grass growing in water. Wild rice stalks stand several feet above the surface of the water. In late summer, when its seeds mature, they look like oats or wheat. Mature seeds are brown. Today at lunch you will have the opportunity to sample wild rice. You can pick some up with your family at the local farmer’s market or SOURCE NAME and eat it in soups, as a side dish, or using the recipe in this month’s newsletter. Today at lunch, you will have the opportunity to sample wild rice in FOOD ITEM from SOURCE NAME/CITY. Give it a try! It is known as the “grain of choice” among top chefs.

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In [MONTH] your child tried [FOOD ITEM] with locally grown wild rice from [FARM NAME] in [CITY] . Prepare this delicious recipe with your family and ask your child(ren) if they can answer the following trivia questions.

  1. Wild rice is Minnesota’s official state grain and the only grain native to the United States. Where is it primarily grown in Minnesota?
  2. What does wild rice look like growing in water?
  3. What is the Native American word for wild rice?

Trivia Answers

  1. Wild rice is primarily grown in the central and northern part of Minnesota.
  2. The wild rice plant looks like green grass growing in water. Wild rice stalks stand several feet about the surface of the water. Wild rice is actually not rice, but a long grain marsh grass.
  3. Manoomin. Wild rice is considered a sacred food by Native Americans of the areas around the Great Lakes.

MS Word version of Newsletter

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History and Origin

  • In addition to its role as an important food staple for Native American people and their ancestors, wild rice has provided a unique habitat for fish and waterfowl for thousands of years.
  • The Anishinaabeg word for wild rice is "manoomin." The Menominee Tribe in Wisconsin and Manohmen County in Minnesota were both named for wild rice.
  • Every September, during the Wild Rice Moon, Anishinaabeg people begin a month-long wild rice harvest. Their homeland, the upper Great Lakes region bordering the United States and Canada, is one of the few wild rice-growing sites in the world. The Anishinaabeg have harvested here for more than 400 years.
  • Cultivated wild rice paddies have been established in California, Minnesota, and Canada to meet the current demand for this popular food, but the Anishinaabeg in the Great Lakes region are still among the main harvesters.

Nutrition

  • Wild rice is a natural food with no additives and no preservatives. It contains high quality protein and fiber.
  • Wild rice is also a low calorie carbohydrate; one cup contains about 110 calories and contains less than one percent fat.
  • The seeds of wild rice contain an antioxidant that some people believe might help reduce their chances of getting cancer.

Did you know…?

  • Wild Rice has been called "The Caviar Of All Grains". This sweet-tasting, nutty-textured seed is the "Grain of Choice" for those who enjoy creating very special dishes. It is one of the most versatile and flavorful grains known to exist in the world today.
  • Processed wild rice can be stored indefinitely in tightly sealed containers.
  • You can “pop” wild rice. Put a little oil in an electric wok, add wild rice, and listen to the seeds pop.
  • Wild rice is harvested in canoes or small boats using wooden ricing sticks. Two people work together, one to guide the boat through the rice bed with a long pole and one to knock the rice grains into the boat.
  • Minnesota was the world’s first producer of cultivated wild rice. Cultivated rice is a “young” industry. The first paddies were developed in early 1950s near Crosslake, Minnesota. Between 4 and 6.5 million pounds of cultivated wild rice are harvested each year in Minnesota.

How to Eat Wild Rice

  • Creamy wild rice soup
  • Wild rice salads
  • Casseroles
  • Cooked and served plain, as a side dish

The above information was compiled from:

www.dnr.state.mn.us/wildlife/shallowlakes/wildrice.html
www.mnwildrice.org/
www.mnwildrice.com/
Wild Rice: Domestication of a Native North American Genus. Dr. Ervin Oelke, 1993.

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Posters and Photos

Tasting Poster (591 K PDF)

Three-Column Poster (1.31 MB PDF)

Index Card (669 K PDF)

Photos

Use these photos as needed in newsletters, for promotional posters, etc.

Right-click on an image's caption to save a larger, print-ready version of the photo to your computer. Choose "Save link as ..." or "Save target as ..." or "Save image as ..." from the pop-up menu that will appear.

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wild rice in birch bowl

Wild Rice in Traditional Birchbark Bowl

photo by Brett Olson
Renewing the Countryside
wild rice seed heads

Wild Rice Seedheads

photo by David Hansen
Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station
University of Minnesota
wild rice plants

Wild Rice Plants


photo by David Hansen
Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station
University of Minnesota
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Curriculum Enrichments

  • “Mirrors of Minnesota” – The Minnesota Legislature has designated 14 official state symbols. “Mirrors of Minnesota” takes the reader on a tour of the eight state symbols (showy lady’s-slipper, red pine, common loon, walleye, morel mushroom, monarch butterfly, wild rice, and Lake Superior agate) that are part of our natural world. This guide is intended for upper elementary and junior high students.
  • The Wild Rice Cultural Awareness and Ecological Restoration Project – This project aims to increase awareness of the cultural, historical, and ecological importance of wild rice. It will provide classrooms with resources on indigenous knowledge systems and their relevance to ecological science and sustainable resource management. It aims to increase the interest in Environmental Science among middle school students, increase awareness of native heritage in context of modern ecology, and make connections to indigenous systems & values.
  • Alternative Crops Field Manual – Wild Rice
  • Bois Fort Circle of Flight Wild Rice Page – Wild rice restoration project of Nett Lake, MN
  • Minnesota Public Radio Article on Wild Rice – White Earth seeks a ban on genetically modified wild rice.
  • Save the Wild Rice
  • Wild Rice – Mahnoomin – Details from the history to production of wild rice.
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