Called Wild Rice,
Mahnomin, or Zizania.
Harvest is the time we look forward to all year - it is the hardest
work we do, and the most rewarding.
This year, 2007, was even more challenging than last with the
low water levels - to find rice that could be poled through.
After trying 7 lakes my partner Scott & I found one that
was just do-able,we had to build a 100' boardwalk jsut to get
out to the rice bed, but so worth it, the rice quality was excellent!
Sadly there is a shortage of hand
harvested rice this year, as last, do to many of the best lakes
not having high enough water to canoe through. Many of our native
neighbors depend on the harvest for income. My wife and I use
about 30 pounds a year - we sell the rest of the 100 pounds we
Harvesting. Careful harvesting is the first essential
to getting high quality rice. I do the poling ( pushing the canoe
through the rice with an 18' pole), my partner Scott does the
'knocking'. This is where the real skill lies. If a person is
too aggressive they will get unripe rice as well as ripe - which
is partly why 'paddie' commerical rice is such poor quality -
mechanical harvesting gets rice of all stages.
This is second key to getting high quality rice. There are very
few people left who do the wood-fire hand processing. We take
it to a older White Earth Ojibway fellow called Sunfish. His
skill and care is beautiful to watch - constantly monitoring
the wood fire, sniffing and feeling the rice as it parches. (Parching
is the slow heating of the green rice until it is separated from
the husk and thoroughly dried.)
How is Commercial Paddy Rice
Commercial rice is harvested
by machine in one swipe - whether the kernals are ripe or green
. Careful hand harvesting gathers only ripe grain. The hand processing
over a wood fire Sunfish does in small batches - he is constantly
monitoring - by sniffing, smelling, feeling - to know when any
particular batch is exactly ready, not overdone! (which would
make it hard, black, and tough to cook and eat like the commercial
First Handfulls of rice, in its husk,
after a day of harvesting.