The long, warm summer days and the clean waters characteristic of Manitoba provide ideal growing conditions for long grain, good flavored wild rice.
Sunlight, essential to the growth of wild rice, is in abundant supply during Manitoba's growing season when we receive approximately 16 hours each day.
Manitoba's pristine lakes, streams and rivers in our wild rice production areas, are generally free from herbicides, pesticides and other chemicals thus providing excellent growing conditions for wild rice.
Due to these conditions, Manitoba is able to provide the world with top-quality, full flavoured wild rice.
Wild rice, an annual aquatic grass native to North America, is primarily found in shallow water along the shores of rivers, streams and lakes where the water current is slow and constant.
As the only cereal native to Canada -- it is the sole Canadian wild grass that grows from seed each year and produces a grain large enough to be used for human consumption -- it is not, therefore, a true member of the rice family.
The wild rice plant is vulnerable to a variety of foes such as: other aquatic plant life that cut off its sunlight; insects and wildlife that enjoy it as a nutritious, energy-packed source of food; water level fluctuations and changes in the chemistry of the water.
The presence of these foes limits the annual availability of wild rice and thus attributes to its being sold at a premium when compared to other varieties of rice.
Manitoba's annual production has focused exclusively on wild rice that has been harvested from natural bodies of water (lakes and rivers) as opposed to being cultivated or paddy-grown, which may be the case in other wild rice producing nations.
Thus, the wild rice produced in Manitoba is known as Canadian Lake Wild Rice. There are two primary growing areas in Manitoba, one east of Lake Winnipeg in and around the Whiteshell area, and one in the northwest around The Pas and Flin Flon.
Over the last decade, Manitoba's share of Canada's annual wild rice production has averaged around 25 percent.
Manitoba's wild rice producers harvest, process and package their production locally every year.
When wild rice is harvested, it contains 40 to 60 percent moisture, so it must go through a "curing" and "parching" process prior to final packaging.
The curing process allows the immature grains to ripen and changes the grain from soft to firm. It is at this stage when the grains begin to take on the characteristic dark colour of wild rice.
The parching process is essentially a drying process where the rice is dried to a water content of approximately 6 to 8 percent.
Once the rice has cooled, it is packaged and made ready for shipping. While our main export market is the United States, shipments have been destined to other countries around the world.
The unique texture and nutty flavour of wild rice make it a highly sought-after commodity.
While it is low in calories and fat, and high in protein and natural fibre, it also contains a wide variety of minerals and vitamins such as riboflavin and niacin.
It is a perfect accompaniment for numerous dishes, especially wild game.
Mila Ruiz Turiaf
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