Indian Ricegrass

DESCRIPTION: Indian 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 States.
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).


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This page was authored by Levi Wickwire