Fish Fry Day: A Side of Rice

We know, we know, this is the day reserved for a cute little picture and “did you know” factoid about some of our favorite fish. It’s a tradition (since April) to celebrate Wisconsin’s day when fried fish is on the menu and it’s often all-you-can-eat. But, you know what? Sometimes you need to take it easy on the ol’ arteries. And that’s why this week’s installment of Fish Fry Day is giving you a big heaping side of wild rice.

A couple of canoes glide through beds of wild rice. Photo: University of Minnesota, National Center for Earth-Surface Dynamics
A couple of canoes glide through beds of wild rice. Photo: University of Minnesota, National Center for Earth-Surface Dynamics

Yep, zizania palustris, or northern wild rice is native to the Great Lakes region and people have been eating it since prehistoric times. Long before we’d developed the appropriate technology to deep fry our fish fillets, people were paddling through Great Lakes wetlands, bending these long green stalks over their canoes and knocking ripe grains into their boats with wooden flails.

Wild rice (or manomin which means “good berry”) was a staple food for Ojibway, Menomini, and Cree tribes, and they introduced it to European fur traders. While efforts to grow it commercially began in the 1950’s, you can still get it the old fashioned way.
No, really, YOU can still get it the old fashioned way – right here in Wisconsin (and Minnesota too) residents can buy a license to harvest it themselves. Your boat can’t be longer than 17 feet and has to be paddle powered, which means the process of harvesting wild rice is about the same as it’s always been.

Wild rice harvesting. Photo: Minnesota Historical Society Collections
Wild rice harvesting. Photo: Minnesota Historical Society Collections

It seems like a nice way to spend a day and end up with a pile of an amazingly healthy cereal grain – with far and away more nutritional value than wheat or brown rice. So there you go, a fish-less Fish Fry Day. Now you know enough to pull a complete meal out of Wisconsin’s waters. Fish with a side of rice – doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
This post was written with help from Ali Mikulyuk, the CFL’s resident aquatic plant guru!
 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *