Broken rice is the lowest priced wild rice because it contains a high amount of broken grains and small grains. This means it will cook faster and you are receiving the most product for your money! Broken rice is not paddy rice, but rather real wild rice which is planted by mother nature in the cool wilderness lakes of South Central Canada, just north of the Wilderness Family Naturals facility. It "puffs" in an identical fashion to all other truly wild rice and can be cooked all by itself as a side dish without any need for other types of rice to be added.
Sky blue, crystal clear lakes lie nestled amongst the lush, deep green forests of northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and neighboring parts of Canada. Once the ice melts on the lakes in the spring, limp shoots of an aquatic grass appear in many of these shallow lakes and adjoining river ways. By late summer, these shoots have become tall grasses with an edible seed. Late August and early September, as wild ducks, birds and geese migrate towards warmer locations they stop to eat and rest amongst these tall grasses, surrounded by the red and golden leaves falling from birch and maple forests. The ripe seeds, the colorful forest and the brisk winds are all reminders that winter is coming.
History of Wild Rice
For years the American Indians in this area have harvested this wild aquatic grass seed. It became a major source of carbohydrates in their diets and a staple during the long cold winters. Oddly enough, the Chippewa, Ojibwa, Fox, Winnebago and Sioux Indians all fought over control of the wild rice-producing areas.
Unfortunately, the wild rice crops were not always reliable and a lake that contained wild rice one year might not have rice the next year, while a lake that is not known for its wild rice might all of a sudden contain rice for a year or two. The water levels were important, and a strong current during the spring would uproot the young shoots as they began to grow. In addition, early autumn storms with strong winds could knock all the seeds into the water just as they were ready to harvest. Unfortunately, Indians relying on wild rice would often go hungry and sometimes starve during the snowy winters if there was a poor crop of wild rice during any given year.
The Indians used the wild rice as a cereal with blueberries, stuffed into game birds or cooked in soups or stews with bear, venison, fish or other game. It was as important to them as wheat and oats are today with most Americans. When voyagers and fur traders came to this area, they too, ate primarily wild game and fish with wild rice and wild berries.
"Real" Wild Rice vs. "Paddy" Wild Rice and Brown or White Rice (true rice)
Lake Rice is typically sold like the picture on your left and can be cooked by itself. It has a nutty flavor and "puffs" when it is finished and ready to eat.
Paddy rice is usually sold like the picture to your right, with white or brown rice. It will not "puff" when finished cooking and remains hard or brittle and very chewy. Mixing it with white or brown rice is one way to make it more palatable.
The reality, however, is that wild rice is not "truly" rice. Instead, it is a grain-like seed from an aquatic grass called zizania aquatic. During the 1950's, hybridization of the wild rice plant was developed by the University of Minnesota so that it could be produced in low-lying paddies just as brown and white rice. When grown in rice paddies, rice can be a more consistent crop, water levels can be controlled, etc. This allowed wild rice to be commercially produced, though the hybrid is not exactly like the original wild rice. Equipment was modified to meet the proper specifications for this delicate seed and research was done to develop strains that would ripen all at once and have resistance to insects and disease.
By mid-1970 almost ¾ of the Minnesota wild rice production, which accounted for 95% of the total wild rice sold in the US, was produced in the cultivated wild rice paddies. At this time, few people knew what wild rice was and it was considered a gourmet food gift item. Every year since, there has been an increasing awareness of what wild rice is and its characteristics. Restaurants, grocery stores, chefs, and others are proud to add wild rice to their menus and shelves. In addition to Minnesota, wild rice is now also grown in Northern California, in lakes in Idaho and wet lowlands on the East Coast. However, all wild rice grown in these areas is the hybrid paddy rice, created in the 1960's by the University of Minnesota.
It is not surprising that today, wild rice found in grocery stores across the country is the hybrid variety grown commercially in rice paddies. Much of it comes out of California but it is now grown from East to West across America. However, the only place in the entire world, where the original, "real" wild rice grows, is still in northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and the corresponding areas of Canada. This is the rice you will find sold by Wilderness Family Naturals. We do not sell paddy rice!