A Harvest You Have toSee to Believe
When you think harvest, most farmers think combining, a ripening garden, and golden crops. When we thinkharvest we think airboat and travel. Our wild rice is grown in the very isolated lakes of Northern Manitoba. Not only are we almost eight hours north ofWinnipeg, some of our lakes are three hours north of us. This means hours on the road (or trail) and days away from home.
The ideal growing conditions for our wild rice is clear,clean water, a depth of 3 – 5 feet, a lake bottom of just the right pH, moving water and lots of sunshine. The wild rice plant is truly amazing. Wild rice is actually a member of the grass family and grows from 5 – 11 feet tall. Usually half of the plant is under thewater. Come spring you cannot see any evidence of plants in the lake. As summer proceeds, the plants grow and the tops will float on the lake. As the plant grows and strengthens, it stands up out of the water and starts to eventually blossom. The blossoms turn into the wild rice‘grains’. Our long hours of sunshine during summer promotes long, plump grains.
Once thegrains have ripened to their optimal size, we haul the airboats out to ourlakes. The airboat has a ‘hopper’attached to the front that the operator can raise or lower according to theheight of the wild rice plants. The riperice grains fall into the open hopper. Once the hopper is full, the airboat goes over to a bagging station. Sometimes a bagging station is on the shore,but most of the time it is a anchored boat. The hopper is emptied by hand (see attached video). The green wild rice is then scooped into bags. On a good day, there are too many bags in the bagging station boat. Instead of carting them all the way to the landing, we will find a close shoreline to stack the bags. At the end of the day, all of the wild rice needs to be carted to the boat landing. The bags are then put into the truck and/or trailor and hauled back to the rice camp where they are unloaded so that everything is ready to go again in the morning. As the wild rice plant does not all ripen at the same time, the same area can be harvested multiple times. Some years we get over the samecrop as many as four times.
Oncethe pick is done, all of the bags of wild rice are brought home. From here, the rice goes to the processing plant which is about 45 minutes from our home. As you can see, our wild rice get handled multiple times – anywhere from a minimum of five to as many times as ten. It is a harvest that really cannot become mechanized due to the remoteness of our lakes and our desire to disturb the surroundings as little aspossible.
As with any crop, mother nature is our greatest partner. Wind is wild rice’s biggest enemy. This year in particular hundreds of pounds were lost to the wind.
On a warm, sunny day the harvest is still work, but on a cold, windy day with nowhere to get shelter, it is not fun. Our son in particular LOVES going ricing and spending time with his Dad.
We are extremely blessed to live where we live and tohave this opportunity to harvest and eat such a great product.
For delicious recipe and a variety of waysto serve healthy, gluten-free wild rice to your family check out: