Wild rice isn’t really rice at all


“Manoomin” is the Ojibwe, or Anishinaabeg, word for wild rice (Zizania palustris). The plant is actually not rice, but rather an aquatic grass that produces grain, like wheat or barley. Wild rice grows best in shallow, clay-bottomed lakes, approximately three feet in depth. The seeds ripen in late summer, between mid-August and early September.

Scientists have identified three species of wild rice in the United States. The most common species, Zizania aquatica, grows along the East Coast. To the west and north you find Northern wild rice, Z. palustris, a species with short, thick kernels. All the rice harvested by the Ojibwe in Wisconsin and Minnesota is Northern wild rice. The other species is the endangered Texas wild rice, Z. texana, found only near San Marcos in central Texas.