Most of us might think Millet is used as birdseed. The millets are a group of tiny-seeded species of cereal grains, typically found all over world for food and animal feed. Millet is one of the ancient foods recognized by humans and perhaps the initial cereal grain to be used for household purposes. Millet is slightly sweet and nutty and can be used in everything from pilafs to cookies. It has a comforting, soothing effect that makes it apt for recipes in fall and winter seasons. In addition, millet is creamy like mashed potatoes or fluffy like rice and is an appetizer that can accompany many varieties of food. Like other grains, millet can be purchased in markets all over the year. India is the world's foremost producer of millet yet it has always been a greatly overlooked grain. Research study on millets is carried out by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Andhra Pradesh, India, and by the USDA-ARS at Tifton, Georgia, USA. At present, millet ranks as the sixth most important grain in the world, sustains 1/3 of the world’s population and is a noteworthy part of the diet in northern China, Japan, Manchuria and various areas of the former Soviet Union, Africa, India, and Egypt. In Eastern Africa, millet is used to make beer. It is also an ingredient in Eastern European fermented drinks and porridges.
It is documented that during the Stone Age, Millet plant was grown by the lake inhabitants of Switzerland. History reads that since the Neolithic Era, millet, a prehistoric seed was cultivated in the dry climates of Africa and northern China. Interestingly it was millets and not rice that was a staple food in Indian, Chinese Neolithic and Korean civilizations. Eventually, millet spread all over the world. Romans and Gauls made porridge from it, and in the Middle Ages millet was more extensively eaten than wheat. The interesting fact is that the millet is also pointed out in the Bible, and was used during those days to prepare bread. Millet made its way from China to the Black Sea region of Europe by 5000 BC.
Millet is a major crop in many countries, particularly the African and Indian subcontinent where the crop covers almost 100 million acres and thrives in the hot dry climate that is not conducive for other grains such as wheat and rice. The plant is now grown in the U.S. on 200,000 acres in Colorado, North Dakota, and Nebraska however a major part of the crop is still used for livestock, poultry and bird feed.
The most extensively cultivated species classified in the order of global production are:
Millet can be incorporated in many main dishes and its flavor best complements winter squashes and desserts. Millet has a slightly nutty flavor and depending on how it is cooked, it can be crunchy or soft. The steps to cook millet are:
The principles of Chinese medicine are designed to focus on consuming food with respect to individual imbalances. Millet and other grains such as barley and quinoa are believed to maintain the ill temper and get rid of mugginess in the human body system.
Millets contain thyroid peroxidase in mild quantity. This enzyme is an iodine inhibitor when millet is taken in small quantities. However, when millet is consumed by thyroid patients in large quantities, it is known to cause swelling of thyroid gland. Thus thyroid patients should avoid eating millet.