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Canadian rice-growing, a technical success

August 1, 2010

Well, as I prepare to relaunch my blog in two days, I figured I’d better update you all on the Canadian rice-growing experiment – before I start to streamline the content of this site. (Especially seeing as “growing rice in Canada” is the most common search term that leads people here).

Well, it was a technical success. My harvest (pictured) wouldn’t have quite sustained me through the winter. Yup, that’s the whole thing.

But at least I got a harvest! I wonder if this is perhaps the first rice ever grown on Vancouver Island (I actually haven’t even heard of it being grown in British Columbia – although someone must have tried). I am quite sure it’s the first rice ever grown and harvested in Tofino!

So, for those of you have been following along, you’ll remember that I had rice growing in shallower and deeper containers. (For those of you who weren’t, you can check out my previous reports May 25 2009, September 5 2009, and November 27 2009). For some reason, the plants in the shallower plastic container flowered more. However, many of the flowering stalks did not produce rice grains – the little things that look like rice are actually empty (e.g. the one at the left of the photo is empty, compared to the full ones at the right).

So I guess they did not pollinate – but I am not sure why. (I am actually surprised any of them pollinated at all – by the time they were flowering, it was mid-winter and I had them growing inside, on my bedroom windowsill. No insects around, no breeze). I had pretty much given up on them – tried to keep them as wet as I had been before, but I was no longer expecting much from them. (They are very pretty though!)

So the little rice that was there matured as I let the plants dry up, around March. So it took nearly a year to grow the plants from seed right through to “harvest” – longer than it’s supposed to take (around 200 days), but no surprise in Tofino’s cool damp climate.

I didn’t get around to seeding rice this year – it was a very busy spring for me – but I will try to do some next year. Hopefully I’ll be able to source some varieties better suited to our climate (these ones were just standard Product of California brown rice seeds from the supermarket).

Anyone else have any rice-growing stories to share?

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. lauren permalink
    September 9, 2010 7:56 am

    hi jackie its lauren!!!! nice blog. :)

    • September 12, 2010 6:41 pm

      Thanks Lauren!
      I’m pretty busy with a lot of other writing right now, so I haven’t and a chance to update it lately. But I’m glad you like it!

  2. September 10, 2015 5:37 am

    Are you still experimenting with rice? We are trying here in Northern Vermont.

    • September 10, 2015 7:40 am

      Yes! I am now in Port Alberni (in the centre of Vancouver Island rather than on the coast) so we get quite a bit more heat in summer. I have two “patches” (tubs) and the rice is right now well over a foot high, with some of the plants just beginning to show their rice seeds (seems a bit late, but the plants are probably the largest and healthiest I have ever grown).
      I am using my own seed,which is descended from supermarket-bought Calrose brown rice, trying to save the earliest-produced seeds each year for growing.
      It is still only a “technical” success – total harvest each year measured in teaspoons. (But totally growing area 2 or 3 square feet). I am also growing amaranth and quinoa now, and they are very easy to grow and produce a LOT of food.
      Please tell me more about your rice project!

      • September 14, 2015 9:52 am

        Good to hear that you are also growing quinoa. We sowed two patches last year. Lee got commerical red quinoa seeds, and planted them spaced as directed. I went into the kitchen and got white quinoa and scattered the seeds on my patch. Mine grew faster than his, but in the end his was much taller with great stalks and heads of red quinoa like you can see on images of Peruvian quinoa. Mine was low and less full on each stalk but with plenty of stalks, a good height for commercial harvesters, we thought. However, probably due to our short growing season ( late May to September) even though we followed all the guidelines, washing and sorting with a sieve etc. the grains when cooked were still hard and bitter.
        Even the chickens wouldn’t eat it. Sigh.

        Hence rice. I have 4 varieties growing in 5 gallon buckets on a platform to avoid our dog’s “acid rain”. Hayayuki, had panicles first, then yukihikari, matsumae, and finally yukimochi. I got the seeds from an experimental farm here in Vermont. Hayayuki has seeds already. I had to look up rice reproduction. When the anthers appeared, I blew lightly on the stalks and moved them with my hand to shake the pollen down. just to help things along. Hayayuki’s stalks are getting heavy and bending over already. Did you know that there is a rice farmer in Abbotsville BC? Masa Shiroki?
        Found him online. I wonder what variety he grows and where he gets his seed rice. Such fun!

      • September 14, 2015 1:11 pm

        My quinoa is amazing! Big beautiful (tall and multi-coloured) plants. Got the seeds at https://www.westcoastseeds.com/shop/vegetable-seeds/quinoa-seeds/brightest-brilliant-organic-quinoa-seeds/ three years ago – have been saving my own seed since then. Not sure why yours would be hard – mine cooks fine, and it is so much tastier (nuttier) than any other quinoa I have tried. I figured out a way faster way to harvest the quinoa this year:

        First of all you have to harvest before any rain hits it, or the seeds will sprout on the plant. It looks like it is still blooming when it is actually ready. (You can tell by rubbing a spray between your fingers – the clean seeds will fall out when ready).

        In previous years, we have fully dried the cut sprays before rubbing them to get the seed out. Problem is, by then the leaves are dry and you get a lot of broken leaf mixed in. This year we rubbed them off as soon as we clipped it – with stems and leaves still moist and flexible, just the clean seed fell out!

        When I was in Peru last year, I tried to get more info on how to get the seed off the stems (that was before I’d figured out the do-it-while-still-fresh trick). The best tip I got was to put the seed in an electric blender with lots of water and blend it. The seed is too fine, it won’t get broken up. But it froths up, removing all the saponin, an dalso lifting any remaining chaffy bits – so you don’t have to clean the quinoa very well at all! Do this 3 or 4 times, until all the chaff is out. So you can store the quinoa dry and mostly clean, but don’t worry about it still having chaff in it. Then, when you want to cook, put your measured amount in the blender and finish cleaning it that way. Don’t need to sieve or anything…

        My rice is definitely behind yours – the buds just sneaking out of the stalks the last few days, not quite opening yet. Thanks for the pollenation hints – I’ve had problems with that (empty kernels) so I will try that. Definitely easier to grow usable quantities of quinoa than rice!

        Here’s a pic of my quinoa from last year: https://twitter.com/jwindh/status/638071560792764416

        Keep in touch!

  3. Douglas permalink
    February 8, 2016 6:03 am

    Hello,
    I am reading with great interest. I went to asia this year. Some vountries are so hot rice is not growing. They will have to import their food. Rice is their main staple.

    I m interested in growing too . i have 56 acres that I’d like to sow in rice. Its time to feed the world…they need this.

    I live in Ontario and would like your opinion on this project.

    Thanks

  4. Douglas permalink
    February 8, 2016 4:09 pm

    Hello,
    I am reading with great interest. I went to Asia this year. Some countries are so hot rice is not growing. They will have to import their food. Rice is their main staple.

    I’m interested in growing too . i have 56 acres that I’d like to sow in rice. It’s time to feed the world…they need this.

    I live in Ontario and would like your opinion on this project for this province.. I read that rice seeds need to be authorised by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
    Thanks,
    Douglas

    • February 12, 2016 10:57 am

      Hi Douglas –

      Sorry, I only have time for a quick response right now, I am overseas at the moment.

      I think you could grow rice in Ontario – you just need to find ones that already come from more northern climates (Japan, Italy, Kazakhstan etc.) rather than the more tropical ones. You need a variety that matures quickly, before the weather starts getting cold again.

      I am sitll growing rice, although still on a very small scale. So far I have been doing it in small rice “paddies” (plastic trays), but I have just found out that there are some rices known as “upland” varieties that do not need flooded paddies. So this year I am going to try a Russian variety called Duborskian rice in my garden:
      http://www.sherckseeds.com/pages/seeds/grains/duborskian-rice/

      I would suggest that you only sow a very small part of the area you are planning to grown in rice – make sure that the variety you are growing works in your area, and you know what you are doing (e.g. what week to plant it). Once you know what you are doing, then you can invest and plant lots. I am jealous that you have so much space! I am growing everything I can (grains, beans, veggies, herbs, fruit/berries) in two city back yards.

      You could also try other seeds and grains. I’ve started experimenting with corn – to dry for corn meal. And I have had great success with quinoa – very high yield and easy to grow (and pretty) – you just have to get it in as early as you can, so you can harvest it as early as possible (I think I planted mid-late May, and harvested mid-August) because autumn rain will make the grains sprout while still on the plant. I grew amaranth for the first time this year, and it grew really well too. Smaller seeds are a bit harder to harvest – and it will cross with the quinoa, so you cannot grow both together if you are planning on saving your seed.
      I got my quinoa and amaranth seed from http://www.westcoastseeds.com

      I am sure you could also grow things like barley, wheat, oats, and variations of those – I don’t have enough space to try those.

      Good luck, let me know how it goes!

      Jackie

  5. April 18, 2016 2:26 am

    an absolute waste of time and effort, but good on ya for having a good hard crack at it, next time see if you can grow a mango tree over there.

    • April 18, 2016 7:45 am

      I haven’t tried mangos, but I’m about to harvest my orange!
      Sure, just one this year… but it’s my third year getting a harvest, not bad for Canada.

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  1. Every grain of rice « Connections

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