When I decided to turn my life into a vacation; I decided to incorporate a physical and diet routine which I lacked; thanks to my life out of a suitcase. While the physical routine was easily sorted; going back to yoga and sports that I had given up on; the diet part required a lot of introspection. I started reading and researching online and chanced upon this wonderful world of Mineral Rich Millets which seemed to have everything that I was looking for to enrich my diet with. Millets are these small wonder grams with high nutritional value which can be grown in adverse circumstances.The next challenge was to find them in the local super market. Finger Millet (Ragi) was available widely and Sorghum (Jowar) and Pearl Millet (Bajra) were visible on the super market racks off and on. This gap of availability has been bridged by Kaulige Foods who retail millets from their store as well as online. My early years were spent in the gangetic plains of Bengal when all I had was rice, rice and more rice. I knew the names from my Geography Text but had never felt them between my fingers.
What are the different kinds of Millets?
We had a look at the different kinds of Millets in the Kaulige Food Corner. While Jowar, Bajra and Ragi are popular specially Ragi the remaining were pretty new to me; I was physically seeing them for the first time.
The chart below has the names of the Millets in different languages to figure them out in the neighboring grocery store.
Why are Millets healthy and preferred over traditional Rice & Wheat grains?
Millets are packed with Minerals and Fiber which is essential for good health. As we age, we are prone to life style diseases. Since these are gluten free, non acid forming and slow digesting they help prevent and fight diabetes as well as any digestive ailment. They are
How are Millets cooked?
Millets are cooked and used in dishes just as we would do for rice and wheat. We had an elaborate cooking and lunch session in Kaulige Foods where we tried our hand in making dosa and Uttapam. The batter was made with Proso Millet and Lentil wherein Proso Millet substituted rice in the same proportion. The time required to soak is slightly longer and then after grinding, the batter is nearly the same consistency. The dosa had the perfect crunch on the outside and the Uttapam was soft. The Paniyarams were perfect and tasted better than the ones made with rice batter.
Check http://www.cookingwithmillets.com for a whole range of recipes of what can be done with millets. Proso Millet seems to be the ideal one to be used instead of flour in cakes. crepes and pancakes.
The lunch thali comprised of items that were made from 3 different kinds of millets. To be frank, I would find it hard to believe that it was not rice if I I was not aware upfront. The consistency was very much like over cooked rice. If you are cooking in a pressure cooker; millet requires nearly same quantity of water and time.
Why are Millets not popular inspite of health benefits?
Millets are not sold in every grocery store, in fact they are not easy to procure. The Public Distribution System in India has always promoted Rice and Wheat through its Ration Shops. The cost of a kilogram of any form of Millets is priced higher than rice. This is ironical since it is supposedly meant for the poor. I guess the demand and supply situation pushes up the price and the middle men make the moolah at the expense of the buyer and seller. The government in Karnataka has now started promoting Millets to promote healthy eating as well as ease out the farmers burden by setting reasonable prices for procurement. Finally, a lot of people have unconfounded fears of how to cook millets, how it will taste and stay away not realising the immense health benefits promised.
Where are Millets grown what is its impact on Agriculture
Millets are grown in almost all the states of Southern India as well as in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and up north in Punjab.
- Millets are pest free crops which do not require synthetic fertilizers. Infact some of the Millets like Foxtail act as anti-pest agents for pulses
- Millets can grow without irrigation. Compared to Rice; which requires about 6 million litres of water per acre for producing 2000 kgs of rice; the yield for millet is low about 600 kgs.
- Millets can grow and thrive in poorest of soils which are less than 8 inches deep
With climate change impacting temperature, rainfall, ground water and continuous drought like situation in India; there is a need for another revolution which agriculture policy makers can drive. Encourage farmers to take up Millet Farming, Develop a Market for Millets and help them earn better prices on their produce. Millets revive the soil, can thrive in extreme weather and can save cattle and humans from malnutrition. Above all can help farmers emerge from their debt trap of commercial crops which is driving them towards the extreme.
Where to buy Millets?
Millets are available in several grocery stores online. You can try Kaulige Foods where they see Millets in their unpolished form and also Mixed Millet Powders for some quick cooking. I like the mixed Millet health drink; it does wonders to my system and there is a spring in my step. Kaulige Foods with the help of Earth 365 is working with local farmers in certain areas to harvest, clean and package the produce. The passionate individuals in these organizations are committed to promote Millet as the key to health and in turn assisting the entire chain right up to the farmers.
Quinoa VS Millets ; Dining Debates
I am party to a lot of dinner table conversation about Quinoa and Millets. Both of these are wonder foods but Millets are more amenable to Indian cooking styles to replace the traditional grains like wheat and rice. Millets and Quinoa are high fibre and gluten free which is good for diabetics and losing weight in particular. Moreover, Quinoa is a complete protein including all 9 essential amino acids like most animal proteins. While Millets is good for our Idli, Dosa, Chapati’s and Khichdi ; Quinoa is better for Salads, Soups, Stuffs and Pulaos. The cost of Quinoa is nearly 5 to 8 times that of Millets and is imported from South America so it is beyond reach for most people in India. Maybe, we should just walk that extra mile and incorporate Millets in our menu in India for good health, good economy and environment