ricegrass is widely distributed throughout the western United States, from
British Columbia and the Dakotas in the north to southern California and eastern
Texas in the south. This erect bunchgrass grows between 4 and 24 inches and
is a highly resilient species. It flourishes in elevations ranging from 3,000
to 10,000 feet and is adapted to arid and semiarid climates. Indian ricegrass
is highly drought tolerant, and it is also adapted to soils of low fertility,
especially sandy or clay-rich soils. This hearty nature made Indian ricegrass
an important wild cereal for prehistoric inhabitants of the western United
Prehistoric foragers harvested Indian ricegrass seeds in the early to mid
summer. They obtained these small seeds by first collecting the entire plant
and then burning away the unwanted foliage. The seeds, which are relatively
high in protein, were then ground and used to make porridge or flour for bread.
Interestingly, flour made from Indian ricegrass seeds continues to be important
to the present day because it is gluten-free, and can therefore be used to
make breads for people with Celiac disease (i.e. gluten intolerance).
Copyright 2003 Northern Arizona University.
page was authored by Levi Wickwire