You probably know wild rice as a delicious superfood and a delicacy in North America. What you may not know about this rich, nutty cereal grain is that it also has a rich and cultural history in Canada. Wild rice is a naturally growing crop, native to the marshlands of Manitoba, and to bodies of water as far the Atlantic provinces. This ancient grain has been found deep in the layers of the crust of the earth as far back as 12,000 years ago. It has been a staple in the diets of many ancestral societies for hundreds of years.
The Ojibwa harvested this crop in late September. The person in the stern paddled while the others collected the rice. (Image Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada)
Canadian First Nations have been harvesting this grain which the Ojibwa (or Anishinabee) peoples call Manomin which means "good berry".The traditional method of harvesting involved paddling through the marsh in a canoe, usually in late September. The harvest involved two or more people: one to paddle the canoe, and the rest to "knock" the stalks. When the rice reaches maturity and is ripe to harvest, the long, thin grains become loose in their clusters at the head of the stalk. They would bend the heavy laden stalks into the boat and flail them with knockers, wooden paddles used to thresh the seeds into the canoe. Because the grains are only harvest when they are at their peak maturity, only a gentle brushing along the stalk is necessary to dislodge the seeds.
At Wild Man Ricing, we try to carry on some of the traditions of the First Nations by harvesting in a way that respects the plant and the environment.