is one of the oldest foods known to humans and possibly the first cereal grain
to be used for domestic purposes. It is mentioned in the Bible, and was used during
those times to make bread. Millet has been used in Africa and India as a staple
food for thousands of years and it was grown as early as 2700 BC in China where
it was the prevalent grain before rice became the dominant staple. It is documented
that the plant was also grown by the lake dwellers of Switzerland during the Stone
millet ranks as the sixth most important grain in the world, sustains 1/3
of the world’s population and is a significant part of the diet in northern China,
Japan, Manchuria and various areas of the former Soviet Union, Africa, India,
is a major crop in many of these countries, particularly Africa and the Indian
subcontinent where the crop covers almost 100 million acres, and thrives in the
hot dry climates that are not conducive to growing other grains such as wheat
Hunzas, who live in a remote area of the Himalayan foothills and are known
for their excellent health and longevity also enjoy millet as a staple
in their diet.
is used in various cultures in many diverse ways: The Hunza’s use millet as a
cereal, in soups, and for making a dense, whole grain bread called chapatti.
flat thin cakes called roti are often made from millet flour and used as
the basis for meals.
Eastern Europe millet is used in porridge and kasha, or is fermented into
a beverage and in Africa it is used to make bread, as baby food, and as uji,
a thin gruel used as breakfast porridge. It is also used as a stuffing ingredient
for cabbage rolls in some countries.
was introduced to the U.S. in 1875, was grown and consumed by the early colonists
like corn, then fell into obscurity. At the present time the grain is widely known
in the U.S. and other Western countries mainly as bird and cattle feed.
Only in recent years has it begun to make a comeback and is now becoming a more
commonly consumed grain in the Western part of the world.
plant is now grown in the U.S. on 200,000 acres in Colorado, North Dakota, and
Nebraska, but much of the crop is still used for livestock, poultry, and bird
feed. It is remarkable that despite the grain being an ancient food, research
on millet and its food value is in its infancy and its potential vastly untapped.
results so far are promising, showing the grain to have great aptitude and versatility
and more and more uses for millet are being discovered every year, including its
potential benefits in the American diet. Millet is superior feed for poultry,
swine, fish, and livestock and, as it is being proven, for humans as well.
is related to sorghum, which is used to make the thick dark sweetener, sorghum
syrup. Discrepancies exist concerning exactly what family millet actually belongs
to, with some references giving the family name as Gramineae, and others
claiming it is in the family Poaceae. There are many varieties of millet,
but the four major types are Pearl, which comprises 40% of the world production,
Foxtail, Proso, and Finger Millet. Pearl Millet produces
the largest seeds and is the variety most commonly used for human consumption.
is a tall erect annual grass with an appearance strikingly similar to maize. The
plants will vary somewhat in appearance and size, depending on variety, and can
grow anywhere from one to 15 feet tall. Generally the plants have coarse stems,
growing in dense clumps and the leaves are grass-like, numerous and slender, measuring
about an inch wide and up to more than 6 feet long.
seeds are enclosed in colored hulls, with color depending on variety, and the
seed heads themselves are held above the grassy plant on a spike like panicle
6 to 14 inches long and are extremely attractive. Because of a remarkably hard,
indigestible hull, this grain must be hulled before it can be used for
human consumption. Hulling does not affect the nutrient value, as the germ stays
intact through this process.
out of the hull, millet grains look like tiny yellow spheres with a dot on one
side where it was attached to the stem. This gives the seeds an appearance similar
to tiny, pale yellow beads. Millet is unique due to its short growing season.
It can develop from a planted seed to a mature, ready to harvest plant in as little
as 65 days. This is an important consideration for areas where food is needed
grows well on poorly fertilized and dry soils and fits well in hot climates
with short rainfall periods and cool climates with brief warm summers. The plants
need good drainage, have a low moisture requirement and do not do well in waterlogged
is highly nutritious, non-glutinous and like buckwheat and quinoa, is not an acid
forming food so is soothing and easy to digest. In fact, it is considered
to be one of the least allergenic and most digestible grains available and it
is a warming grain so will help to heat the body in cold or rainy seasons and
is tasty, with a mildly sweet, nut-like flavor and contains a myriad of beneficial
nutrients. It is nearly 15% protein, contains high amounts of fiber, B-complex
vitamins including niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin, the essential amino acid methionine,
lecithin, and some vitamin E. It is particularly high in the minerals iron, magnesium,
phosphorous, and potassium.
seeds are also rich in phytochemicals, including Phytic acid, which is believed
to lower cholesterol, and Phytate, which is associated with reduced cancer risk.
has an interesting characteristic in that the hulls and seeds contain small amounts
of goiterogenic substances that limit uptake of iodine to the thyroid.
In large amounts these "thyroid function inhibitors" can cause goiter
and some researchers feel this may explain, at least in part, the perplexing correlation
between millet consumption and goiter incidence in some of the developing countries
where millet constitutes a significant part of the diet. In many of these countries
another contributing factor may be a lack of sufficient dietary iodine.
these substances are diminished during the hulling process but there is definitely
controversy concerning the idea that the process of cooking largely destroys
those that are left in the seed itself. Some researchers including Dr. Jeffrey
Bland believe that cooking greatly diminishes these substances; others claim that
it doesn’t and that in fact if millet is cooked and stored in the refrigerator
for a week, a practice common in many cultures, these substances will actually
increase as much as six fold.
is not alone in possessing this characteristic. Commonly eaten foods that also
contain these goiterogenic substances include brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage,
cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, spinach, turnips, rutabagas, cassava, soy beans,
peanuts, peaches, and pears.
of these foods are nutritionally valuable as is millet and this is generally not
cause for alarm. A healthy, whole foods based diet containing an abundant variety
of foods will ensure that an excess of these goiterogenic compounds is not consumed.
It is important to note that Jeanne Wallace, PhD, CNC, states that for those
with hypothyroidism a significant guideline would be to consume three servings
a day or less of the foods containing goiterogenic compounds.
are many cooking variations to be found for millet. A good general guideline is
to use 3 parts water or stock and 1 part grain, add grain to boiling water, and
simmer covered for approximately 30 minutes or until water is completely absorbed.
Remove from heat and let steam, covered for ten minutes more.
grain has a fluffier texture when less water is used and is very moist and dense
when cooked with extra water.
flavor of millet is enhanced by lightly roasting the grains in a dry pan
before cooking; stir constantly for approximately three minutes or until a mild,
nutty aroma is detected.
millet is presoaked the cooking time is shortened by 5 to 10 minutes.
intriguing suggestion for cooking millet is found in the book Hunza
Health Secrets: Soak the grain overnight, heat water or other liquid
in top of a double boiler, add millet and steam over boiling water for thirty
minutes or until the millet is tender.
preferences can be addressed by experimenting with cooking times, methods, and
is delicious as a cooked cereal and in casseroles, breads, soups, stews, soufflés,
pilaf, and stuffing. It can be used as a side dish or served under sautéed
vegetables or with beans and can be popped like corn for use as a snack or breakfast
cereal. The grain mixes well with any seasoning or herbs that are commonly used
in rice dishes and for interesting taste and texture variations it may be combined
with quinoa and brown or basmati rice.
may also be sprouted for use in salads and sandwiches.
flour produces light, dry, delicate baked goods and a crust that is thin and buttery
smooth. For yeast breads up to 30% millet flour may utilized, but it must be combined
with glutinous flours to enable the bread to rise. For a delightful "crunch"
in baked goods, the millet seeds may be added whole and raw before baking.
stored, whole millet can be kept safely for up to two years. The grain should
be stored in tightly closed containers, preferably glass, in a cool dry place
with a temperature of less than 70° or in the refrigerator. The flour deteriorates
and becomes rancid very rapidly after it is ground, so it is best to grind the
flour right before it is to be used.
we have seen, millet is a highly nutritious, healthful and versatile grain
that would be a worthy addition to anyone’s diet.
Bean and Millet Salad
1 cup millet, uncooked
3 cups water
2 cups black beans, cooked
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 medium onion, (or substitute green onions), chopped
1 medium cucumber
1/3 cup water
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon balsamic
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
the millet in 3 cups of water until water is absorbed, about 30 minutes. Fluff
with fork and allow to cool.
a large bowl, combine millet, black beans, tomatoes, and onion.
several strips from the cucumber (it should look striped) and cut it lengthwise
into four pieces. Remove the seeds and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Add the cucumber
to the salad.
all dressing ingredients until well blended and pour over the salad, tossing to
blend. (Experiment with the seasonings to suit taste.) Cover and refrigerate until
the salad is well chilled. Serve on lettuce leaves or stuff into pita bread.
from Internet Chef
1-1/2 cups Millet flour
1/2 cup soy flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder (non-aluminum)
1/4 teaspoon orange flavoring
1 cup water or orange juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cups brown rice syrup or honey (or substitute Stevia)
all dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix all liquid ingredients together, then
add to dry ingredients. Put mixture in well-oiled muffin tins. Makes 12 muffins.
at 375 for 15-20 minutes or until done.
from Arrowhead Mills
"Black Bean and Millet Salad" found at http://www.ichef.com,
March 23, 1999, Bumgarner, Marlene Anne, The New Book of Whole Grains New
York, First St. Martin’s Griffin, 1997
March 25, 1999, Crowley, Marilyn, "Not Just for the Birds", Chatelaine;
Elson M., M.D., Staying Healthy With Nutrition, Berkley, California; Celestial
Millet" at http://www.glness.com/agway/millet.html,
March 23, 1999
March 25, 1999
March 25, 1999
March 28, 1999
Millet" at http://www.znfu.org.zm/technical/pearl.html,
March 28, 1999
Janet, "Goiter, Do you eat millet?" Science News, May 3, 1986
Evelyn, Whole Food Facts, Rochester, Vermont; Healing Arts Press, 1996
Karen, "Mighty Millet: This Nutrition-packed, Mild-flavored Grain Isn’t Just
for the Birds" Vegetarian Times, February 1997
Renée, Hunza Health Secrets, New Canaan, Connecticut; Pivot Health
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