Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- Northern wild rice (Zizania palustris) is an annual plant native to the Great Lakes region of North America.
- Wild rice (Z. aquatica), also an annual, grows in the Saint Lawrence River and on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States.
- Texas wild rice (Z. texana) is a perennial plant only found in a small area along the San Marcos River in central Texas.
and one, Manchurian wild rice (Z. latifolia), is a perennial native to eastern Asia. These plants grow in shallow water in small lakes and slow-flowing streams. Often, only the flowering head rises above the water. The seeds of the two annual species are the ones most commonly harvested as food.
Native Americans harvested wild rice by canoeing into a stand of plants, and bending and beating the ripe grain heads with the canoe paddles, so as to thresh the seeds into the canoe. The Ojibwa called this plant "manomin" or "good berry". Some seeds fell to the muddy bottom to overwinter and germinate in the spring. Wild rice is the only cereal food native to North America. It is a favourite food of dabbling ducks and other aquatic wildlife.
Wild rice is high in protein, the amino acid lysine and fibre, and low in fat. It is also a good source of the minerals potassium and phosphorus, and the vitamins thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. Because of its nutritional value and taste, wild rice increased in popularity in the late 20th century, and commercial cultivation began in the US and Canada to supply the increased demand. In the United States, California and Minnesota are the main producers; plants are mainly cultivated in paddies. Wild rice is the official state grain of Minnesota. Canadian wild rice is usually harvested from natural bodies of water; the province of Saskatchewan is the largest producer in Canada.
The stems of Manchurian wild rice sometimes are infected by a fungus which causes them to swell up. These stems are eaten as a vegetable in some parts of Asia. This species has been accidentally introduced into the wild in New Zealand and is considered an invasive species there.
Wild rice is also grown as an ornamental plant in garden ponds.
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