A two in one celebration! June 21st is National Aboriginal Day as well as the Summer Solstice the longest day of the year. We celebrate First Nations, Métis and Inuit people on this day because of the cultural significance of the summer solstice in traditional aboriginal culture. Aboriginal culture celebrates the return of warmth on the solstice, and acknowledges that the season is short and to not take the gift of summer for granted. Spring is associated with renewal and rebirth, where summer is associated with growth and maturation.
“Wild rice is actually not a rice, but an aquatic plant. It is a good source of protein, providing more protein than quinoa and as well as more B-vitamins, zinc and manganese.”
Wild rice is native to Canada and was used traditionally by our Aboriginal population. This aquatic grass seed is actually not a rice at all, but instead grows in the soils at the bottom of our own pristine lakes. It grows and reseeds itself naturally and does not require any fertilizers or pesticides. Traditional harvesting consisted of two women in a canoe in the shallow waters, one paddling and the other bending the grass over the canoe with a stick and lightly flaring the stalks to shakes the seeds into the boat. Harvesting generally takes place in August to September.
Traditional seeds would be dried in the sun or over a slow fire to crack open the hulls. Then a ceremonial dance would be performed on the seeds to thresh them before being tossed in birch baskets in the breeze to separate seed from chaff. Toasted wild rice can be seen on restaurant menus, but common usage of wild rice consists of boiling and using as a replacement for rice.
Wild rice is higher in protein than other rice, as well as fibre. It is also high in minerals potassium, phosphorus, zinc and manganese, B-vitamins, and the amino acid lysine. In traditional folk medicine it was used as a diuretic, as a treatment for burns, heart ailments and digestive complaints. For more information on traditional Aboriginal Healing see my post here.
Other traditional Aboriginal foods range from game meats, to fresh seafood, to edible roots. Wild rice and corn were both staples of our non-coastal first peoples diets. This simple recipe combines these two traditional ingredients to make a tasty side which can go alongside some BBQ salmon at your next potlatch.
Wild Rice and Cornmeal Patties
This simple dish uses traditional Aboroginal wild rice, and corn to make a tasty snack or meal accompaniement. Serve it with fresh salmon and wild nettles for a full traditional Aboriginal menu.
- 1 cup wild rice
- 4 cups water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup cornmeal organic
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 free-range egg optional
Rinse the wild rice, drain. Place in a saucepan with salt, bring to a boil. Turn down heat and let simmer for 50 minutes. The rice should be tender but not mushy.
Next slowly add the cornmeal to the hot rice, stirring with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Heat up a frying pan to medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. You can semi-form a patty in your hand, though it will feel like it will fall apart. Don't worry, once it starts cooking it will bind together. Make the patties about 2 inches in diameter. You have the option of adding an egg here if you don't feel like the patties will stick together. Simply whisk an egg in a bowl, then add it to the rice and cornmeal mixture before frying.
Make four patties in the first batch. Let cook for about 5 minutes on the first side, then flip over and let cook for another 5 minutes or until nicely browned. Remove from the frying pan and let cool on some paper towel. Repeat with remaining oil and mixture. Serve with a mustard, or a mixture of mustard, chili and plain yogurt.
Recipe NotesAdd a Binder: Whisk one egg and add it to the mixture before making it into patties.
Make it Vegan: Omit the egg.
Complete the Meal: Serve it with fresh salmon and sauteed nettles.
Serve it as an Appetizer: Make a dipping sauce from plain yogurt, fresh dill or chili flakes, and lemon.
Nutritional Information for Wild Rice and Cornmeal Patties