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(Republican Eagle photo illustration by Sarah Gorvin)

Wild rice harvest in full spring

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life Ellsworth, 54011
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

This year's late spring put many Minnesota crops behind schedule. Wild rice is no exception.

As of early July, the rice crop — which grows mainly in lakes, marshes and streams the northern portion of the state — was about two weeks behind schedule, Ducks Unlimited wild rice lake management consultant Rod Ustipak reported.

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But over the summer, the crop gained some ground and matured only about a week late. While this year's harvest won't be a bumper crop, Ustipak said it will be a vast improvement over last year, when heavy rain storms damaged the crop.

Minnesota's wild rice season runs Aug. 15 through Sept. 30, though the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reports that harvesters should wait until later in the season.

"There should be good picking in early to mid-September as long as the weather stays mild," David Kanz, Brainerd, Minn., area wildlife manager said. "Wild rice is highly dependent on stable water levels through the year. Then, as rice ripens, we need mild weather so rice doesn't fall from the stalk before harvest time."

Rice harvesters to only allowed gather ripe wild rice; the harvesting of "green" rice is unlawful. Here are some other guidelines from the DNR:

• Harvest takes place from a non-motorized canoe, 18 feet or less, using only a push pole or paddles for power.

• Rice is collected by using two sticks, or flails, to knock mature seeds into the canoe. Flails can be no longer than 30 inches, and must weigh less than 1 pound each.

• Harvesting licenses cost $25 per season, or $15 per day, per person for Minnesota residents.

• There is no limit to number of pounds people may harvest with a permit.

If you're not feeling up to harvesting your own wild rice, there's plenty available in grocery stores and specialty shops. The Minnesota Cultivated Wild Rice Council reports that the state produces between 4 million and 10 million pounds each year. Wild rice brings in about $2 million to the state annually, the DNR reports.

Cultivated wild rice is identical to its naturally occurring counterpart, the MCWRC website states. However, differences in how the grain is processed can result in varied flavors and colors.

With September being designated as National Rice Month, now is the perfect time to integrate the Minnesota-native grain into your meals.

Here are some recipe ideas from the Minnesota Cultivated Wild Rice Council. For more, visit www.mnwildrice.org. For more on wild rice harvest regulations, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us.

Thai Vegetable Soup

Minnesota Cultivated Wild Rice Council

Ingredients

1 large onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp. canola oil

1 box (9 oz.) Green Giant Frozen Peas

1 cup cooked, diced potatoes

2 cans (14-1/2 oz.) Swanson Vegetable Broth

3 cups cooked wild rice

salt and pepper to taste

1 can (14-1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes, not drained

1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro, divided

2/3 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce

In large saucepan, sauté onion and garlic in oil. Add peas, potatoes, broth, wild rice, salt and pepper; cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, 2 tablespoons cilantro, peanut butter and hot sauce; stir. Serve hot; garnish with remaining cilantro.

6 servings

Wild and Cheesy Corn Muffins

Minnesota Cultivated Wild Rice Council

Ingredients

1 package (8 1/2 oz.) corn muffin mix

1 egg

3/4 cup cooked wild rice, chopped

1 cup Fancy Brand® Hot Pepper Monterey jack Cheese

1/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease muffin pans. In medium bowl, blend ingredients; batter will be slightly lumpy. Let stand 3 minutes before filling muffin cups; fill cups 1/2 full. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

12 muffins

Wild Mexican Casserole

Minnesota Cultivated Wild Rice Council

Ingredients

3 cups cooked wild rice

1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese

1 can (16 oz.) kidney beans, drained

1 lb. ground chuck, cooked and drained

2 cups salsa

1 box (9 oz.) frozen corn, thawed and drained

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese

tortilla chips, optional

1 cup sour cream, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a 3-quart casserole, layer ingredients. Bake, uncovered, 45 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips and sour cream if desired.

Note: May be assembled the night before and refrigerated up to 24 hours prior to baking.

6 servings

Wild Dip

Minnesota Cultivated Wild Rice Council

Ingredients

1/2 bag (24 oz.) Green Giant® Frozen Broccoli & Three Cheese Sauce (apx. 3 cups including 12 sauce chips)

1 jar (6.5 oz.) marinated artichoke hearts, drained

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise

1/2 cup sliced green onion

1 tsp. garlic salt

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 cup cooked wild rice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In large bowl, microwave broccoli and sauce chips until thawed; place in food processor or blender. Add artichokes; process 10-15 seconds until finely chopped. Place in 1 1/2 quart casserole; stir in remaining ingredients. Bake 30 minutes until bubbly. Serve with pita or bagel chips.

Makes 4 cups.

Chicken Wild Rice Salad

Minnesota Cultivated Wild Rice Council

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups uncooked wild rice

4 cups dry white wine

2 cups water

2 tbsp. each, minced: fresh tarragon and fresh chervil

2/3 cup sour cream

10 skinned, boned chicken breast halves

1 lb. trimmed asparagus, cut into 4 cm (2 in.) pieces

1 lb. mange tout (snow peas), strings removed, halved

1/2 lb. fresh, washed greens (e.g. arugula or frisee)

30 walnuts halves, toasted

Dressing

6 tbsp. white wine vinegar

4 tsp. each: Dijon mustard and minced shallots

3/4 cup olive oil

salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Simmer wild rice in wine and water 40 minutes or until tender. Boil off any renaming liquid. Combine herbs and sour cream; spread on chicken and place in greased baking pan. Bake approximately 20 minutes. If desired, pass under grill the last 5 minutes; set aside. Blanch asparagus and mange tout in boiling water 2 minutes, drain well; toss carefully with wild rice and greens. Cut chicken diagonally; arrange next to salad.

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