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Yet Another Ancient Grain to Try

Dec. 31, 2015|413 views

This week I’m profiling certain ancient grains that may be unfamiliar to many Americans, but deserve a look. Most of these unfamiliar but time-honored grains offer substantial nutritional value. At the very least, they offer the chance to experience the novelty of a new food. Millet is an excellent example. Most of us will be familiar with this tiny round, blond-colored grain from commercial birdseed mixtures. That’s right. Birds can’t get enough of this delicious little seed.

But millet is not just for the birds. Around the world, many humans rely on millet as a major source of important nutrition. In India, for instance, it’s the single most important staple grain. It’s also an important food in China, South America, and other regions. Some scientists believe that in ancient times, millet cultivation was more important in China than rice cultivation, for example.

Millet is actually any of a number of similar grains from a single family of grass-like plants. It can be yellow, red, white or gray, and is often mixed with other grains before being served porridge style. Slight toasting of the whole, dried seeds helps maximize the subtle, nutty flavor of this delicate grain. To prepare, add one cup of toasted grain to two cups of water in a saucepan with a tightly fitting lid. Cover with lid, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes, until water is absorbed. One cup uncooked millet yields about three cups cooked porridge.  

Millet is high in antioxidants and it’s free of gluten. Some research suggests that a diet featuring millet may be beneficial for the control of diabetes and inflammation. As a serving suggestion, for breakfast try adding fresh fruit, and top with genuine maple syrup or a dollop of organic honey. For a more savory dish, try substituting cooked millet for bulgar in your favorite tabouleh recipe. To three cups cooked millet add a pinch of salt, a grinding of fresh pepper, and 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, three Tbs fresh lemon juice, and 1 tsp. ground cumin. Add 2 chopped, seeded cucumbers, 3 plum tomatoes, 5 scallions, and 1 chopped yellow or red bell pepper. Stir in 1 cup chopped parsley and 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint. Toss and enjoy!

Lakshmi Kumari P1, Sumathi S. Effect of consumption of finger millet on hyperglycemia in non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) subjects. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2002 Fall;57(3-4):205-13.