That’s the sound wild rice makes as it lands in the bottom of the canoe
Well, that’s what it sounds like to me anyway.
And I got to hear that lovely sound today when Rick & I headed north to our destination. There’s nothing quite like taking off at noon on a work day and heading off into nature.
It was sunny, hot and humid. I loved it! There was a threat of rain on the horizon, but it held off until later in the day.
Of course, not all travels are smooth ones, and sometimes you have to be tested on your way to make sure that you are worthy . And today we were tested… the car overheated and delayed us a tad, but we didn’t let it get us down. After a quick fix, we were back on the road. We had wild rice to gather!
We usually go on one of the lakes around us, but this year there was a nearby river that looked good, so we decided to give it a try. River rice tends to be shorter than lake rice (this is just an FYI for anyone who is guessing. There is no difference in taste, just size).
Here’s the deal: if you ever get a chance to go ricing, TAKE IT!! It is absolutely fantastic!
You’re on a canoe amongst tall stalks of plants that contain actual food that you gather yourself.
Sure, there are a couple minor annoyances like worms, spiders and bugs (as well as the rice itself, which is quite itchy) that fall down in your hair and clothes. You may also endure a few blisters on your hands from knocking the rice off the stalks (like me). Worst case scenario is that you will tip the canoe and dump all of your hard work (and yourselves) overboard (which, has not happened to us yet… knock wood).
But don’t let those little things deter you… you get used to them.
Our reward after 2 1/2 hours on the river? 22 pounds of wet rice. (Wet refers to fresh rice before it has been parched, which will yield about 1/2 that amount by the time you are finished.)
Parching (drying the rice) is the next fun step in the process. We have our own humdinger of a way to do this over the fire pit that involves a chair with its legs sawed off at an angle and an old washing drum. Oh, and don’t forget the canoe paddle for stirring the rice so it dries evenly.
After that, it’s thrashing time to remove the outer husk from your precious rice. Then to get rid of any more little traces of chaff (fine pieces of husk), you winnow (shake) it in a fine breeze (or in front of a fan, whichever you have available).
I tend to clean mine more before packaging up by taking small amounts in a dish and picking out any remaining chaff and worms that remain with a tweezers. (Yes, the worms get cooked in the parching process and end up like little black balls. Some people don’t mind eating these. As for me? ewwwww!)
So begins Ricing Season 2011. Rick & I are hoping to get out a few more times this weekend if the weather cooperates, because this is one of the many things that we truly enjoy about living in the Northwoods.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have rice and insects to pick out of my hair and various other places.