Rice grass is native to the U.S. and found extensively throughout the western states. It’s a hardy grass that grows well in cool temperatures. This grass reaches 4 to 24″ in height. Rice grass has extensive roots and is extremely drought tolerant. It grows best in dry, sandy soil and is tolerant of both acidic and basic soil types. The seeds shed from this grass resemble rice grains.
Rice is the seed of the grass species Oryza sativa (Asian rice) or Oryza glaberrima (African rice). As a cereal grain, it is the most widely consumed staple food for a large part of the world’s human population, especially in Asia. It is the agricultural commodity with the third-highest worldwide production, after sugarcane and maize,
HISTORY AND FOLKLORE
Ricegrass is an important food for livestock and for wild grazers such as bison, desert bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, pronghorns, and jackrabbits. For some of these species, it is especially vital in late winter, as it produces green shoots earlier than other grasses. The seeds are heavily consumed by many rodents and birds, notably mourning doves.
This tough grass is known for its ability to reseed and establish itself on sites damaged by fire or overgrazing. Much germination occurs in years with wet Aprils. It is grown inxeriscapes—cultivars are available—and will become quite large if given sufficient space. The open, spangled appearance when in flower or fruit is very attractive, especially in backlight. The flower stalk is commonly used in dry flower arrangements
USES AND PREPARATION
In the past, the grass was a staple food of Native Americans, especially when the maizecrop failed. Seed of the ricegrass was gathered and ground into meal or flour and made into bread. Since 2000, the ricegrass has been cultivated in Montana and marketed under the trade name Montina as a gluten-free grain. The Zuni people used the ground seeds as a staple before the availability of corn
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