Prairie Rice - Not What You Think

~ May 2012 No.245 ~

For many people, rice is a staple in their daily diet. Rice is grown around the world and, although there are some small areas of Canada where traditional “wild rice” is grown, something new has come to Canada. It’s called “Prairie Rice”. But there is a catch.

Prairie rice is not rice, but in fact is oats.

Oat grain is characterised by a good taste, and dietetic properties. It is considered a good source of soluble fibre and has been shown to contain ß-glucans that reduce blood cholesterol levels. Oats, like other cereals, are low in lysine, but they are a perfect source of sulphur amino acids. For those who are following a vegetarian diet, oats can be a perfect supplement in combination with legumes. Oats do not contain gluten, and therefore can be eaten by those who suffer from celiac disease.

Prairie rice is an oat variety - cavena nuda - that is hairless, which eliminates the respiratory issues at harvesting that are characteristic of traditional oats. Because the hull falls away during harvesting, it does not require expensive dehulling and sorting equipment. Storage and transportation costs are also reduced because only the valuable seed is retained. Hulless cultivars, sometimes referred to as “naked oats”, are considerably higher in energy, lipid, linoleic acid, protein and essential amino acids than the hulled varieties.

So how do you get from naked oats to “Prairie Rice?” Part common sense, part marketing, part serendipity. The oat kernel it turns out is the same shape and size of traditional rice. Prairie rice is cooked and prepared in the same manner as traditional rice. It can be used as a side dish or as part of a salad or stuffing. And the serendipity part? It seems that when some of the first plantings were being tested in Manitoba, a wet spring resulted in many flooded fields. While other crops suffered during this wet period, the oat plants stood tall and healthy, and reminded the farmer of rice paddies.

So, move over porridge and oatmeal cookies. Make way for Prairie Rice!

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Last modified

September 15 2016