Minnesota Wild Rice Expected To Have A Good Harvest
The mild weather in the region this year has helped wild rice flourish this growing season. According to a DNR survey, the most harvested lake in the state is Mallard Lake, covering 354 acres with wild rice.
“Minnesota leads in the nation in terms of natural wild rice waters, in terms of water acres, as well as acres of wild rice. It’s something you can do easily in Minnesota that you can’t do anywhere else in the country,” said Wildlife Lake Specialist Ann Geisen.
In order to harvest wild rice, you must purchase a license from the Minnesota DNR, who is noticing even non-resident licensing is increasing.
“You can only harvest wild rice when it is ripe. It is illegal and unlawful to harvest it when it is green. Not all lakes ripen at the time and when it ripens can vary from year to year,” Geisen said.
The season technically opens on August 15th but those ricing still need to check the crops before harvesting.
“You want to pick a couple grains and see if they snap between your fingers if it is crispy and kind of hard in the middle. If it is soft and milky the grain isn’t quite ripe yet,” Geisen said.
“Native Americans did it for centuries before and with European settlement it is still really common, there are still a lot of people here that rice,” said Russell Reisz, Aitkin Area Wildlife Manager DNR.
Over the past 10 years, the DNR generally sells between 1000 and 1500 licenses each year.
“This year folks are excited about it. We had, I wouldn’t say a total failure last year in the area, but it was close. Many of the lakes didn’t produce any rice or very small amounts of rice,” Reisz said.
The plants do not need much maintenance but the license money goes into an account spent only on wild rice management.
“I think the plant is so cool and do unique, it’s got a unique growing cycle how it starts out submerged and then goes emergent, not all aquatic plants do that,” said Geisen.
Wild rice is starting to decrease in places like Michigan and Wisconsin, so the Minnesota crop this year is important to keep wild rice thriving.