Conserve School was fortunate to host a visit from Roger LaBine, a local expert on wild rice harvesting and processing from nearby Lac du Flambeau. Roger described to students the traditional Ojibwe method of harvesting wild rice, which grows in shallow water, in canoes. The stalks are bent over the canoe using one stick and then gently stroked with another stick to release the rice. Roger then demonstrated to students how the wild rice is processed. First the rice is spread on a tarp to dry, and then it is parched over a fire in a cast iron kettle to make the rice chaff brittle and easier to loosen. Students were able to help stir the rice as it parched, separate the chaff by “dancing” on the rice, and winnowing it to separate the rice from the chaff. Wild rice is native to this region and is delicious, but hard to find and time- and labor-intensive to harvest and to process. The local wild rice, though, is worth the effort — superior in flavor and texture to the farm-grown wild rice most commonly available in stores. Many thanks to Roger for taking the time to share his expertise with us.
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