Growing rice in the PNW

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Growing rice in the PNW

Postby matt walker » Fri Oct 10, 2014 6:22 pm

So, you guys probably know trying to grow rice in my cool climate was this year's "freestyle gardening" trick I was attempting. Well, it looks like a bust outdoors. It's all still alive, but really stunted and it's going to start getting cold here soon. I doubt it's going to do anything. However....the greenhouse rice has rice! I'm not sure how much longer it needs to ripen, but there are a bunch of rice, uh, thingys, popping up on all the stalks. I'm really excited, it actually looks like there is going to be a bunch, even from a relatively small number of plants. If it works out, I may dedicate more space to it next year. I'll take some pics here as things develop and if anyone has any harvesting advice, when/how, I'm all ears.
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Re: Growing rice in the PNW

Postby okiecrat » Wed Nov 05, 2014 10:49 pm

Matt, I fear that you will be disappointed by the yield of your rice. Normal rice cultivation only produces around .18 lbs. per square foot and I'm sure you could get more food value out of other crops in your greenhouse. If your goal is non-GMO, you are just about out of luck even buying GMO free seed because most rice grown from pure natural seed is grown in fields close enough to GMO fields so that cross pollination is pretty much a certainty. The rice produced may not be 100% or even 50% GMO grain but over 3 or 4 generations, the rate will rise so that half or more of the rice has GMO genetics with no way of sorting the GMO infected grain out of your production.

There is one bright spot you might want to investigate and that is wild rice. I'm pretty sure that none of the GMO producers are investing laboratory time in creating GMO wild rice so what you get will be safe and wild rice is very expensive in relation to regular rice in the grocery store.

Grains like rice and wheat produce seed clusters at the top of the stalk and those clusters are called "heads". You can tell when the grain is ready to harvest when the head is dry and you can pick off a single head and separate it easily by rubbing the head between your hands. If you wait too long, you will lose some grain in the cutting process. You start the harvesting process by cutting the heads from the leafy parts of the stalk and you can accomplish this in several ways but for your situation, you will probably find that using a pair of pruning shears will work best. Simply grab an handful of stalks just below the shortest or lowest head and cut just below your hand. Then hold the bunch over a bucket or basket and cut the heads off letting them drop into the container for the next step and toss the stalk remnants into a container to go into your composte . If you have a larger quantity of harvest, you can dump your bucket or basket onto your threshing floor explained below.

The process of separating the grain from the heads and stalks is called "threshing" and with small quantities, you can do it by hand or you can set up a "threshing floor" (a canvas tarp 8 to 10 ft square spread on a concrete floor or even on the ground will work) where you spread a layer of heads with whatever stalk is still attached and thresh it with a flail made from semi limber canes. You can Google "threshing flail" for places and designs you can purchase or designs that you can make yourself. For really small quantities, you can simply put on a pair of leather gloves and grab a handful of heads and rub them between your hands to separate the grain from the heads and husks. You will find that the individual grains will stand fairly rough treatment without damage.

After the grain is threshed thoroughly, you have to separate it. You can accomplish this by a process called wind separating using either nature on a windy day or a good fan. The process is to slowly pour the thresh from a container held a couple of feet above above a receiving container with wind blowing strongly enough through the pour to blow the trash out of the grain. You will probably have to repeat the process of winding the grain several times to get clean grain. You can experiment with different pour heights, pour rates, and wind strengths to find the most efficient combination so that the grain all falls into the receiving bucket or other container while blowing the most trash out of it.

This process works for all the different grains like rice, wheat, oats, milo, sorgums, and rye.

Good luck and good harvest.
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Re: Growing rice in the PNW

Postby matt walker » Wed Nov 05, 2014 10:54 pm

Right on! Thanks so much for the help, and welcome. Glad to have you here.

I am not really growing it with much hope of providing much food yet, just having fun growing stuff and learning at this point. I appreciate all the tips though, I'm working my through the learning process of threshing and winnowing with my wheat right now. I do not think the rice is going to produce at all, unfortunately. I need to go check, but while it started to head up, I think it's now too cold. I let you know how it all ends up in the coming weeks here.
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