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Nov 19, 2007 06:26 AM

Cal. vs Minn. Wild Rice: Is there a taste difference?

Being a Midwestern boy far from home, I naturally swear alliegance to items native to that area.
I've always tried to find Wild Rice from back that way, but the West Coast seems to have an
abundance of California grown Wild Rice, which I've never bought.
Is there a discernable difference in taste, texture, and cooking, or is just as good as the "real thing"?

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  1. what do you consider the "real thing." yes, there will be differences in taste, maybe to minute to notice, but there will be one. as for cooking, the time and ratios probibly wont differ much if any. the french have a word "terroir" which refers to where a product is grown. thats the great thing about food and wine. a pinot noir from napa is going to be different to a pinot noir grown in new york, and anywhere else. the fun part of cooking is finding these differences and exploiting them to your liking.

    2 Replies
    1. re: SiksElement

      real thing:
      The naturally occurring rice from the Northland vs. cultivated California rice.

      1. re: bbqboy

        ca "wild" rice is not wild at all, it is a crossbred product of which real wild rice is a genetic parent. the genetic composition of this product makes it possible to grow the "wild" rice in paddies and harvest it by mechanical means. ca "wild" rice is characterized by tough texture, uniform dark color, long cooking time. real wild rice is genuinely wild, uncultivated and hand harvested, with interesting variations of color, texture, taste. i'd encourage the op to try the ca "wild" rice for comparison if you must, but don't expect it to taste like real wild rice.

    2. As has been noted here, all California wild rice is a hybrid that's been bred so that it can be cultivated in paddies (which is why it's known as "paddy" or "cultivated" wild rice). But what the other posters have failed to note is that most of the wild rice produced in Minnesota is also paddy wild rice. So there will be no significant difference in taste, texture, or cooking between the two.

      The real "real thing" is lake wild rice. It's truly wild, growing in lakes in northern MN and Canada. It's harvested by hand in poled canoes, and is hard to find and significantly more expensive than the cultivated stuff. But if you can track some down, try it--much as I like cultivated wild rice, the truly wild stuff is much better.

      5 Replies
      1. re: alanbarnes

        Yep. What I grew up with, but pretty hard to find out here in Oregon.
        Usually my niece in St. Paul sends some, but she's busy being pregnant this year.

        1. re: bbqboy

          if you follow the link below my previous post you can order some hand harvested, real live wild rice direct from the white earth reservation in northern mn. the proceeds support land restoration & stewardship on the reservation, as a bonus. the wild rice is the real deal & worth every penny. your niece or other family/friends can pick up the same item in bulk at all of our local co-op grocery stores, generally at right around $10/lb retail. too bad more people can't get ahold of the real deal around the country, as many people will talk about wild rice, but they may never have had the real thing.

          1. re: soupkitten

            "Over the past decades, plant breeders have developed wild rice for paddies in Minnesota, and today most of the wild rice on the market comes from rice paddies, and indeed sixty-seven percent of it from California Each fall, millions of pounds of California wild rice comes into the state to be processed, some of that rice, if genetically engineered would irreversibly contaminate our manoomin."

            SK, do you know why the California harvest is shipped to Minnesota to be processed?

            1. re: bbqboy

              for the same reason that maple syrup is sent to vermont to be packaged ;)

              people are looking for "real minnesota wild rice" to take home or send to loved ones, and they buy the stuff in the pretty package or that costs a buck cheaper-- unfortunately they don't realize, or don't care about, the origin of the product-- they have just heard that "minnesota wild rice" is the real deal, just as "vermont maple syrup" is the real deal, therefore all wild rice bought in MN is thought to be the real deal. . . & what is really terrible is that big ag in cali has so much more advertising clout that they have effectively elbowed out the traditional (native) wild rice harvesters by flooding the local markets with their cheaper cultivated "wild" rice. many consumers & chefs know better, but i think a lot of people just look at the price tag or buy their "wild" rice soup at the grocery store w/o realizing that the "wild" rice is actually cultivated paddy rice from california.

            2. re: soupkitten

              Ditto on what Soupkitten said. The hand-harvested wild rice is so much better than cultivated California (or Minnesota) wild rice that it will blow your mind. The grains are longer and more slender, and the taste is incredible. The cultivated stuff is just a pale shadow.

              Native Harvest wild rice is really worth the extra cost. Those who live in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) can find this rice at around town (the Wedge used to carry it - not sure if it still does). Or try this link:



        2. From the posted sites (by bbqboy and soupkitten), wild rices grown in California and Minnesota are not hybrids. They appear to be simple selections from the original germplasm. As such they may taste a bit different and have different cooking needs than the originals, but were semi-domesticated in order to be produced in slightly different agroecosystems and to shatter (lose grain from mature panicles/grain heads) less.

          9 Replies
          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            Having eaten both, they are utterly different in taste and appearance once cooked.

            My mother is from Minnesota and there is much discussion about getting rice from the "good" places. I'm in California and will only eat the wild rice from the Minnesota "good" places. I've still got about half a pound squirreled away, waiting for the right occasion to make it.

            1. re: Sam Fujisaka


              The site says that the "cultivated wild rice industry began in the 1950's when researchers at the University of Minnesota, through cross breeding, created a variety of wild rice that could grow in a paddy, and be harvested with a combine."

              No geneticist here, but isn't cross breeding the same as hybridization?

              1. re: alanbarnes

                ab, (and to over-simplify with apologies) normal breeding would be crossing different wild rices to generate varieties that have desired traits. These would produce seed that can be re-sown from each crop. Traditional breeding probably produced a variety with less shattering (the tendency for ripe grain to fall off of the panicle). Hybridization takes more distant genetic materials (think horse and donkey) to produce something desirable (e.g., a mule) but not viable in producing offspring.

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  Sam, why would the grains be uniformly black, instead of the variation in color seen in "wild" wild rice? Do they have some corresponding factor to flavor? Is that what's been bred out?
                  Has wild rice been hybidized too? Does it show up in other places on the Globe?
                  Maybe we've found your new adventure in the North Woods.

                  1. re: bbqboy

                    The article provided by alanbarnes mentions selection from an existing cultivar that shattered less. Implicit was that seeds were saved, grown, and saved--multiplied until fields could be planted to the selection. The process is not "breeding" per se and would imply that grain color would reflect the original cultivar. That is, the "pure line selection" eliminated other colors not present in the original rather than "bred them out".

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      Probably going to expose my ignorance yet again, but...

                      Selective breeding increases the likelihood of desireable traits in the progeny while minimizing the likelihood of undesirable traits. By planting cross-pollinating seeds of wild rice that are less likely to produce grains that shatter in close proximity to one another, commercial growers have produced a product that is unlikely to shatter. This shatter-resistance appears to have been accompanied by a tendency for the grains to have a uniform tough outer coating that increases cooking time and changes texture and flavor. Hence the opinions that "wild" wild rice is different than the cultivated stuff.

                      How is this different than the selective breeding that goes on with, for example, dogs? Parson Jack Russell selected terriers who were better-suited to pursuing foxes underground and bred them to produce the modern Jack Russel Terrier. Isn't it true that characteristics that were not suitable for the purpose of the dog were "bred out"?

                      PS--don't mean to request that you teach a genetics tutorial. But this is pretty interesting stuff that applies to a lot of the food we eat. TIA for your info and patience.

                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        Yes, dog and wild rice breeding or selection have basic similarities.

                        It would be nice if breeding, "...increase[d] the likelihood of desireable traits in the progeny while minimizing the likelihood of undesirable traits." Unfortuantely, breeding often produces trade-offs. More aromatic rices are more attactive to bugs and birds; less shattering can quickly translate into "hard to thresh"; and the like. Some dogs bred to look good ended up having linked health difficulties (?).

                        Again, in the case of taste and shattering, however, the rice was apparently not bred or crossed. A rice displaying less shattering was found "in nature" and its seed selected and reproduced. It seems that the particular cultivar had a thicker carp and less desirable flavor. It may or may not be the case that non-shattering and thick carp characteristics are in any way genetically linked.

                        Most or just about all of the "wild" rice is now domesticated. Human activity places selective pressure on wild populations, resulting in human suited crops.

                  2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    Thanks for the clarification. Found an article that describes the domestication process in some detail:


                    1. re: alanbarnes

                      You know, that's what's so great about Chowhound. We go from my original elementary question to a PHD explanation of stem smut!

                      "Stem smut is caused by the fungus Entyloma lineatum (Cke.) Davis. Economic losses from this disease have not been a problem in cultivated fields."
                      I always knew Wild Rice was sensual, but I couldn't ever put my finger on it before.