Ingredient Spotlight: Wild Rice

A key ingredient in Thanksgiving stuffings and many creamy fall soups, this is the one time of year when wild rice gets its time to shine - though we think it deserves year-round attention! What about you?

Wild rice is a distant cousin of the short- and long-grain rices we normally cook with, and it's actually the only native North American cereal to have become an important food for humans. It's a cool-weather grass that's grown primarily in the Great Lakes region. Grains of wild rice can grow as long as two centimeters!

Wild rice is an intact grain, meaning that it includes the bran, endosperm, and germ. Partly because of this and partly due to the drying process after harvesting, wild rice is incredibly hard and takes much longer than other rices to cook. Even once cooked, it stays very firm and chewy.

The flavor of wild rice is earthy and nutty. This makes it ideal for pairing with fall vegetables like squash and root vegetables, especially when roasted.

We usually cook wild rice using the boiling method since cooking times and the amount of water can vary greatly depending on the quality, age, and particular variety of wild rice. It can often take more than an hour to become tender, though you can reduce the cooking time by pre-soaking the grains in warm water.

Look for wild rice in gourmet food stores - unless you actually live in the Midwest, in which case you can find it in the grocery store!

Are you a fan of wild rice?

Related: Recipe: Wild Rice Salad with Roasted Green Beans and Dried Cranberries

(Image: Emma Christensen for the Kitchn)