It was a ritual with us, growing up, to help harvest the wild rice on the lake. Wild rice is actually a grain, and in the spring there is no sign of it. In early summer the stalks lay flat on the water and look like weeds. By fall, they stand upright like shafts of wheat.
To harvest, Dad would sit in the back of the canoe and paddle through the rice. One of us would sit in the middle of the canoe with a large tarp spread out over the bow and would hold two long sticks. Our job was to bend the rice over the canoe with one stick and tap the top of the stick with the other stick. The ripe rice would then fall into the tarp-spiders, bugs, and all. Sometimes the whole front of the canoe would be filled with rice.
Neighbours from the Eagle Lake Reserve down the road taught Dad how to process the rice; we would put it in a large roasting pan over a low fire and stir frequently until the rice became dried and hard. Or, Mom would put it in a low oven overnight- bugs, spiders and all. She was never very keen on this.
Next we would rub the rice in our gloved hands to loosen the chaff and then winnow it- which meant it was poured from a height into the wind. The wind would blow away the lighter chaff and the denser hard rice would fall into the pan. This is also how we cleaned blueberries.
- Guest contributor Barb Moline
Memories from her childhood on Ardis Lake (near Dryden Ontario).
Barb's Wild Rice Casserole
1 cup wild rice
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup diced celery
1/2 red pepper, finely diced
1 cup toasted almonds
salt and pepper
Saute onions, celery and red pepper in oil or butter. Add salt and pepper. Add drained rice, chicken broth and almonds. Bake covered at 350 for about 1 hour- the rice should be nutty but not mushy.
Quick prep for wild rice:
Add 1 cup wild rice to 2 cups water with salt. Bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes, uncovered. Drain and use in recipe.