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Millets were cultivated some 10,000 years ago, even before cultivation of other grains began! Earlier it was consumed daily like we eat rice and wheat now.   It was the Staple food in South , central India and Uttarkhand.

How Millets lost their place on Dinner table to Rice and Wheat?

But after green revolution, Rice and Wheat gained popularity while Millets were eaten only in some pockets of India due to many reasons.  This is why…..

  • They were tagged as poor mans’ food
  • Were not appealing to look
  • Rice and wheat became popular due to Public Distribution system(Ration Shops)

Millets and their Benefits to the Common man and to the Farmers


For the Common man

Health conscious in India are now moving away from Rice and wheat due to Carbohydrate levels and Gluten content.   Most of them are seeking grains like Quinoa and other non-locally grown food grains to stay healthy.  Now, Quinoa is not grown in India and needs to be imported from South America.  Most Indians would never  have heard or seen the some expensive grains like Bulgur, Freekeh, Farro and Kamut that are  recommended by dietitians nowadays.

At such times, it is wise to bring adopt the food grains like millets which are available in India and which were favored by our Forefathers.  Recent studies show that Millets are a rich source of Protein, fiber and minerals – Calcium Phosphorus and Iron. They are also not heavy on your pocket.

Benefits for farmers

Millets do not require waterlogged fields like rice and hence can be grown in places where there is water scarcity. They can be grown extensively in Arid and Semi-arid regions with raising temperatures up above 38 degree centigrade.

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Check out some millets grown in  India:

1)Foxtailmillet – Korra

This has the highest mineral content as compared to other Millets.  This grain has been mentioned in old Tamil texts of Sangam period.

Known by the name: Kangini in Hindi, Kan in Gujarat, Kaon Dhana in Bengali, Korra in Telugu and Thinnai in Tamil and Navanakki in Kanada

2)Kodo millet – Arke

This millet has high fiber content and is ideal for Diabetics.  It contains Calcium, antioxidant compund – polyphenols, proteins and fiber.

Known by the name:Kodra in Hindi, Varagu in Tamil, Arikelu in Telugu and Araka in Kannada

millets photoPhoto by harrington_alison

3) Pearl millet -Bajra

Bajra has high protein content and is used by many to make Rotis and Bhakris.  Some people make Salads and Porridge with Pearl millet sprouts.  It is made into gruel during the hot summer months in Tamil Nadu and consumed with butter milk.  It is also a favorite street food during this season there.

Known by the name: Bajra in Hindi, Bajri in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharastra, Kambu in Tamil and Kannada, Kambam in Malayalam.

4) Proso millet – Chenna

This millet has a very high percentage of protein  and carbohydrate content is recommended mostly for body-builders.

Known by the name: Barri or Chena in Hindi.

5) Barnyard millet – Sanwa

The healthy benefits of this millet are B-vitamin, Fiber and iron while it has the lowest carbohydrate content among Millet varieties .  It grows very quickly, within 45 days. This millet is used extensively during the Navarats, when people are fasting and they need to avoid rice.

Known by the name: Jhangora in Hindi

6) Little millet – Sama

Little millet has the highest fat levels among all millets.  It tastes good when made into Rotis, bread, Dosas or eaten like rice with a side dish.

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Known by the name: Kutki in Hindi.

millets photoPhoto by Foodmoods

7) Finger millet- Ragi

This millet is very popular in South India where is cooked on special celebrations.  It has high calcium content and can be made into tasty Dosas.

Gujaratis make them into crispy Papads. It is a popular dish of tribals in Odisha.  In Kumoan, Ragi is served to women recovering from labor.  It takes the form of Puttu, the breakfast dish of Kerala.

Known by the name: Mandua in Hindi and Ragi in South India.

8) Sorghum – Jowar

Sorhum or Jowar is more popular millet pan India.  This millet is a source of proteins and carbohydrates hence acts as an energy booster.  It is usually made into delicious porridge or Rotis. The  flour of Sorghum is also used to make dumplings like Muthaihs or spiced pancakes like Thalipeth.  You can make cookies as well and enjoy the gluten free products guilt-free….

Photo by Lablascovegmenu

Make millet  Idlis, Rotis, Upma, Kheer, Soups, Khichdi, Pulav or Biryani. Otherwise, just add millet flour to your Idli, Dosa or Cake batter for receiving their nutrients.

Adopting these foods in their daily diet, alternating with rice and wheat, can make you healthy while also saving your hard earned currency.

Photo by D-Stanley

MILLETS: FORGOTTEN FOOD GRAINS OF INDIA

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