What are millets ?
Millets are the most underrated family of cereals in the urban areas. These are a type of tropical cereals, which means that they thrive in regions that have a relatively warm climate for most part of the year. They can be adapted to infertile soils and hence a perfect answer for food shortage problems in many countries. They’re easy to grow, and are absolutely loaded with health. The table below gives vernacular names of various millets.
|Name||Vernacular Names (Hindi,Kannada,Tamil,Telugu,Malayalam)|
|Foxtail Millet||Kangni, Navane, Tenai, Korralu, Thina|
|Kodo Millet||Kodra, Harka, Varagu, Arikelu, Varagu|
|Barnyard||Sanwa, Oodalu, Kuthiravaali, Udalu|
|Little Millet||Kutki, Same, Samai, Sama, Chama|
|Finger Millet||Madua, Ragi, Kelvargu, Ragulu, Moothari|
|Proso Millet||Barri, Baragu, Panivaragu, Varagalu, Panivaragu|
|Pearl Millet||Bajra, Sajje, Kambu, Sazzalu, Kambu|
Why eat millets ?
“Health is wealth”. This is probably one of the most overused quotes in the history of time, but it couldn’t be more accurate, and hence, we use it as well. Health is, hands down, the best asset that we can ever hope to possess, and that’s exactly what millets gift us – health.
Millets have a rich composition of nutrients and minerals, and have a high protein, fiber and antioxidant content. Statistically speaking, a portion of millets have a protein content of 7% to 12%, a fat content of 1% to 5%, and a carbohydrate content of about 65%, most of which is in the form of non- starchy carbohydrates and dietary fibers which is very beneficial to our body- they help balance our blood sugar, prevent constipation, improve our immunity, and aid heart problems. And that’s basically what your daily serving of millets would look like.
This powerhouse of cereal comes in a wonderful array of shapes and sizes. To name a few –
- Foxtail millet – Foxtail millets are rich in dietary fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals and are low in fat. It is good for nervous system, lungs, arthritis, psychological disorders.
- Kodo millet : good for blood impurities, anemia, weak immunity, diabetes.
- Barnyard millet : good for liver, kidney, excess bad cholesterol, endocrine glands
- Little millet- high in iron content, rich in magnesium, vitamin B3, and phosphorous. Good for uterus, PCOD, male and female infertility
- Browntop millet : good for digestive system, arthritis, hypertension, thyroidism, eye, obesity
The above set of five millets are sometimes called as Siri-dhanya or positive millets as they can cure diseases and disorders. They contain fiber content between 8 to 12 percent.
The remaining millets are finger millet (good for bones) , proso millet (protein rich) , pearl millet (good for lactation), jowar, corn which have relatively less fiber content and sometimes called neutral millets.
Rice and wheat which we consume mostly now a days have very less fiber content compared to any of the above mentioned millets.
Not only health, usage of millets has beauty benefits. Yes, it has the amazing benefit to prevent skin from getting premature ageing. Lysine and methionine are the two amino acids present in millets. These amino acids are the great source to develop collagen which stops the skin from getting wrinkles, sagging and also maintains firm and healthy skin
Unlike rice and wheat that require many inputs in terms of soil fertility and water, millets grow well in dry regions as rainfed crops. By eating millets, we will be encouraging farmers in dry land areas to grow crops that are best suited for those regions. This is a step towards sustainable cropping practices where by introducing diversity in our diets, we respect the biodiversity in nature rather than forcefully changing cropping patterns to grow wheat and rice everywhere.
Grain diversity is good for your health
Consuming different grains and adding millet grain and grain based foods in your diet is often a good idea if you feel your diet is lacking the minerals, vitamins, and other nutritional content you might need. A diverse selection food grains makes for a better balanced and nutritional diet compared to a regular diet composed solely of grains like rice and wheat.
Why then are millets still so rarely available ?
Well, the answer dates back to the time of the green revolution. The 1950s was a period of time when India was looking at growing crops independently. In an attempt to do so, rice and wheat were promoted as the staple foods of the country, and farming these crops was widespread. In doing so, the popularity of millets took a backseat, thus making the farming of these cereals relatively much lesser. But the good news is that millets are slowly, but surely gaining attention again, and so should they.
How to cook millets ?
Most millets can be cooked like rice. Millets can replace rice in various dishes such as idli, dosa, payasam/kheer. Millet flour can be used to make roti. Here are the cooking instructions
- Rinse it off and remove any stones
- Soak your millet for 6 to 8 hours prior to preparing it. Add two spoons of butter milk to it so as to remove the phytic acid that might cause digestive issues
- Cook millets as you would cook rice but with more water. Try 1 cup of millet to 2 to 2.5 cups of water. Determine how much water to use depending upon how soft you like your grain
- You will know your millet is cooked when the dark color becomes opaque
Why process millets ?
Processing is always a word that sounds … not-so-healthy. However, when it comes to millets, the case is different. Processing is a necessary part that goes into bringing millets to our dinner table – the outer hull is removed off of the millets, because of the fact that the outer hull isn’t easily digestible. Processing is, thereby, in the case of millets, simply a process that makes millets human-edible. What goes into processing these millets, you may ask? Here are the steps involved.
Well, firstly, as the name of the process suggests, millets are sun dried in order to remove any additional moisture that the millets may contain.
The millets are directly transported to the processing unit from the farm, and may contain small stones. These stones are removed by subjecting the millets to a sieving process.
The sieved millets are then collected. The basic kernel structure of millets contain the pericarp (outer covering), endosperm (starchy part), and germ (oily part).
The primary operation in processing of millet is usually the separation of offal (portion not normally used for human consumption) from the edible portion. The offal consists of pericarp and sometimes the germ. Offal removal is frequently called dehulling. The loss of minerals was minimal. Dehulling improves the biological availability of nutrients and consumer acceptability.
In the past, the millets were dehulled by humans, thus proving it to be an extremely laborious task. With the advent of the industrial revolution, that job has been taken over by machines.
The dehulling step may not remove skin for some grains. The ‘color sorting’ step will remove such grains that dehuller could not remove the skin, based on the color. The drilled grain and raw grain are of different color.
If millets can be easily grown, why buy organic millet and pay premium price?
A common question that’s still prevalent amongst us, is why buy organic millets, when they can be easily grown and even in infertile soils.
While it is true that millets can be grown with no pesticides, it is still safer to consume the produce which are grown by farmers who follow organic farming practices, for the following reasons …
- A produce can be called “organic” only when they are grown from the soil that do not have residues of chemicals. Hence, even though millets can be grown with no pesticides, if the soil contains chemical residues then they may percolate to the food that we eat.
- Once millets are hulled, they attract beetles very quickly. In the conventional market, unsafe pesticides are used to store millets in warehouses and to avoid insects. Organic farmers do not use unsafe pesticides to store millets.
- Lot of traders in the conventional market do adulteration to millets and sell. Common practice is to cut rice into millet size and mix.
- Common chemicals that gets tested in organic process are thiram, mancozeb, monocrotopos, prophenophos, chlorpyriphos, carbendazim, phosalone, endosulphan, pendimethalyne.
Ok I am convinced. Where do I buy organic millets now?
“Eco Store” is one of the oldest and trusted organic store in Bangalore. We get our millets, from farmers passionate in growing healthy food with no chemicals and pesticides. We regularly get all varieties of millets mentioned in this article.