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Wild Rice (Zizania) Nutrition

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Zizania palustris/aquatica | Zizania latifolia

Zizania palustris/aquatica

Zizania palustris is sometimes confused with Zizania aquatica. These are the two species generally grown for consumption as "wild rice". The confusion between the names makes it difficult for us to speak with absolute authority on these species of wild rice. Sometimes when a resource discusses Zizania aquatica, they actually are referring to Zizania palustris, but the the opposite does not usually occur. Based on the differences in the Anatomy and Taxonomy it is possible to guess that the wild rice in natural stands may be Zizania aquatica, and the wild rice of cultivated fields is actually Zizania palustris. However, some resources claim that Z. aquatica is not harvested foor foor, in which all of it refers to different varieties of Zizania palustris.

In either case, wild rice is called the "caviar of grains" (6). Some resources state that Zizania aquatica was a staple food source for Native Americans. Called manonin, or "good berry" this grain inspired the name of the Menominee tribe (12). However, Oelke (1993) (11) makes the same statement for Z. palustris. Wild rice is also a staple food for wild waterfowl, and is traditionally used by cooks as a stuffing for roasted gamebirds (12).

Although the name implies otherwise, wild rice can be grown either in natural or cultivated stands, however many argue that it should not be commercially bred or grown (see Research and Education). On the other hand, domestication of the crop has increased the availability and decreased the price of this previously expensive gourmet food (12, 13). Sold as pure wild rice (Zizania), or mixed with regular rice (Oryza), this grain is used as an option to potatoes, plain rice, and pasta (12, 13).

Wild rice is also used in soups, salads, and deserts. Folk remedies utilize it for for burns, heart ailments, hepatosis, nephrosis, pulmonosis, and stomach ailments (12).

Unlike Oryza, processing wild rice for consumption causes little reduction in the nutritional value of the grain (11, 13). Low in fat and high in protein, wildrice is comparable to other grains in nutritional value (11, 12, 13). Although it is low in fat, the fats that are available are easily oxidized and can cause the rice to become rancid when stored (11, 13, 22). Wild rice is also a good source of the minerals potassium and phosphorus, and the vitamins thiamine, riboflavin and niacin (11, 13, 22).

See the following links for nutritional data on wild rice:

Zizania latifolia

Manchurian wild rice was once an important grain in ancient China, but is now very rare in the wild, and its use as a grain has completely disappeared (22). However, the swollen stems of the plant are used as a popular eastern vegetable known as water bamboo (22, 24). A smut fungus, Ustilago esculenta, causes the stem to swell and become succulent, and the "bamboo" is harvested before the fungus reproduces and turns black (22, 24). Depending on the plant's age and color at harvest it is referred to as green stem (early season and small in size), white stem, or pink/red stem (both mid-late season and large) (24). It is eaten raw or cooked.

For more information on the nutrition of Zizania latifolia, see: Study on nutrition composition and protein quality of a Chinese wild rice.


  1. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. 2003. Plant Gene Resources of Canada., accessed 5/23/06.
  2. Bois Forte Reservation Tribal Council. 1998. Wild Rice Sales and General Information. Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, Deptartment of Natural Resources.
  3. California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations A Dictionary of Botanical Etymology. 2003-2005 Compiled by Michael L. Charters. , accessed 5/23/06.
  4. California Wild Rice Advisory Board. 2006. Wild Rice Facts., accessed 5/23/06.
  5. California Wild Rice Growers Association. What is wild rice?, accessed 5/23/06.
  6. Christmas Point Wild Rice Company. 2000-2005. About Wild Rice., accessed 5/23/06.
  7. Clayton, W.D., Harman, K.T. and Williamson, H. (2002 onwards). World Grass Species: Descriptions, Identification, and Information Retrieval. [accessed 28 March 2006].
  8. Erickson, S. 7/16/96. Wild Rice Production Process, accessed 5/23/06.
  9. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS). 2006. Retrieved May 23, 2006, from the Integrated Taxonomic Information System on-line database,
  10. Nelson, J. 2000. Crop Profile for Wild Rice in Minnesota. Minnesota Pesticide Impact Assessment Program (PIAP). From USDA - NSF Center for Integrated Pest Management. North Carolina State University.
  11. Oelke, E.A. 1993. Wild rice: Domestication of a native North American genus. p. 235-243. In: J. Janick and J.E. Simon (eds.), New crops. Wiley, New York.
  12. Oelke, E.; Teynor,T.; Carter, P.; Percich, J.; Noetzel,D.; Bloom,P.; Porter,R.; Schertz, C.; Boedicker,J.; and Fuller, E. Zizania aquatica L. January 9, 1998.
  13. E.A. Oelke, T.M. Teynor, P.R. Carter, J.A. Percich, D.M. Noetzel, P.R. Bloom, R.A. Porter, C.E. Schertz, J.J. Boedicker, and E.I. Fuller. Wild Rice. Wisconsin Corn Agronomy., accessed 5/23/06.
  14. Small, E. 1999. New crops for Canadian agriculture. p. 15-52. Wild Rice (Zizania palustris L). In: J. Janick (ed.), Perspectives on new crops and new uses. ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA.
  15. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. 2006. Texas Wild-rice (Zizania texana)., accessed 5.23.06.
  16. 1854 Tribal Treaty Authority (2006). "Biology of Wild Rice.", accessed 5/23/06.
  17. University of Florida. 1998. Zizania aquatica, Aquatic Plant Information Retrieval System. Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants.
  18. US Fish and Wildlife Service. 2006. Wild-rice, Texas., accessed 5/23/06.
  19. USDA, NRCS. 2006. The PLANTS Database, 6 March 2006 ( Data compiled from various sources by Mark W. Skinner. National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.
  20. Waikato Regional Council. 1999-2006. Regional Pest Management Strategy 2002-2007, Section 5 - Plant Pests. Environment Waikato.
  21. Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 1992 onward. The grass genera of the world: descriptions, illustrations, identification, and information retrieval; including synonyms, morphology, anatomy, physiology, phytochemistry, cytology, classification, pathogens, world and local distribution, and references. Version: 28th November 2005.
  22. Wikipedia contributors (2006). Wild Rice. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved May 23, 2006.
  23. Wild Rice Nation. 2006. Wild Rice Farming.
  24. Yamaguchi, M. 1990. Asian vegetables. p. 387-390. In: J. Janick and J.E. Simon (eds.), Advances in new crops. Timber Press, Portland, OR. found at