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Entries Tagged as 'agriculture/food'

Sumbala, and the shifting worlds of locust beans & soybeans in West Africa

One of the two foods highlighted in my chapter about soybeans in Africa in The World of Soy (published already 8 years ago now) was a pungent West African condiment, traditionally made with “African locust beans” but increasingly with soybeans, and known by various names such as: sumbala, sunbala, or sungala (in Manding); daddawa or dawadawa (in Hausa); iru (in Yoruba); netetu (in Wolof); and ojji (in Fula). The other food was tofu, which is also an interesting development, but here I’ll focus only on the condiment, and the ongoing natural resource issues behind a shift in its main ingredient.

Increasing use of soybeans is a good story, but the decrease in use of locust beans is not, reflecting declining numbers of African locust bean trees due to loss, low regeneration, and little planting, and decreasing production by existing trees where rainfall levels have gone down.

What is sumbala…?

Sumbala – I’ll use the term from Manding here, although I used the Hausa term in the book chapter – is widely used across West Africa to season sauces. The process of making sumbala centers on fermentation of seeds, most commonly those of the African locust bean tree, Parkia biglobosa (among the traditional alternatives is a close relative of the more humid tropics, P. bicolor). More about the tree and what’s happening with it in a moment, but about its seeds – evidently they are quite nutritious. Locust beans have high protein (like distantly related beans) and various other nutrients. The fermentation process, aside from changing taste, also affects the profile of available nutrients.

Production of sumbala – generally done by women as a home-based industry – is a multi-step process from preparing the seeds to boiling them to setting them aside in the proper conditions to ferment (without innoculent to get the fermentation started). The bacteria of the fermentation are in the Bacillus group, primarily Bacillis subtilis (a variety of the latter is also used to ferment soybeans in a somewhat different process to make a Japanese food called nattō  納豆).

The final sumbala product can be seen in local markets as a ball or patty. These may be traded at some distance within the region. Nowadays it is also packaged in a crumbled form for sale in urban markets and for export.

African locust bean tree, or nere

Parkia biglobosa, often called in English African locust bean tree, or more rarely African carob, is common in Africa, and especially West Africa, roughly between 5°N and 15° N latitude – from the edge of tropical forests to the edge of the desert (“mean annual rainfall” of 400-700mm). The tree of course has names in the various languages of the region such as: nɛrɛ or nɛtɛ (Manding); ɗorawa (Hausa); irugba (Yoruba); uul (Wolof); and nareewi or netehi (Fula). “Néré” in French and English comes from the Manding, as evidently do the Fula terms.

The tree is valuable for its seeds, of course, and also for other products, such as the nutritous yellow pulp of the pods. Lost Crops of Africa, Vol. IIThe Lost Crops of Africa (vol. 2) chapter on the African locust bean tree discuses some of those uses. In terms of traditional medicine, bark and leaves are apparently effective in treatment of some infectious diseases.

Due to its value, the locust bean tree is usually conserved in fields when most other woody plants would be cleared. However it has been noted for a while that natural regeneration is apparently not sufficient to replenish the population – which recent studies from Burkina Faso and Nigeria confirm. Reasons given for this include the harvest of the seeds for sumbala, and loss of seedlings to drought or browsing livestock.

Efforts to plant African locust bean trees are apparently few, even though it is simple to seed directly or produce in nurseries.* One example of planting in southern Burkina Faso is interesting but seems to be limited in scope. It is not clear whether planting this species is part of any large scale project or extension effort, although it was mentioned in a 2010 recommendation of species for the Great Green Wall project.

WAF-nere-leaf-pod

Pods, yellow pulp & leaf (Source: Anthony Simons via World Agroforestry)

Another challenge is lower rainfall levels, which aside from affecting survival of seedlings also lower production of seed pods – as observed in another example from Burkina Faso.

Soybeans to the rescue?

It is in this environment, with generally declining availability of locust beans but increasing markets for sumbala, that soybeans emerged as an alternative. This substitution is described in more detail in the book chapter, but it appears to have been an innovation by Nigerian women in the 1980s. I am not aware of any studies of its dissemination – by local networks or projects, nor whether it may have been an innovation in several locations experiencing the same shortage of locust beans. I first learned of this substitution in 1999 while in Mali, and it  was treated as a new development – indeed a project had introduced the use of soybeans for sumbala a couple of years earlier.

Soybeans have a couple of advantages for making sumbala, notably as a field crop they can be produced quickly enough to respond to demand, and having thinner seed coats, require less boiling time (hence less firewood in typical production) to prepare for fermentation. On the other hand, soybeans as a field crop require more labor to produce than locust beans, which are simply harvested from trees, and the soy sumbala deteriorates faster in storage.

In terms of taste, opinions I heard were that soy sumbala was comparable to that made with locust beans. However Margaret Shao, in a master’s thesis referencing her research in northern Ghana, found that locust bean sumbala was preferred. And further that because of this, soybeans were sometimes used as filler with locust beans in making sumbala to combine the advantages of both. Beyond that, I have not seen any studies of preferences.

Looking to the future

The Africa locust bean tree is valuable in many ways, of which the use of its seeds for making of sumbala is particularly important. Soybeans are established as a valuable crop and food in West Africa, and have added an important option to producers of sumbala in the face of increased demand for their product and decreased supply of locust beans. The two – soybeans and locust beans – are in a substitution relationship that is relatively novel. But the emergence of soybeans and decline of locust beans does not mean that the former should be expected to supplant the latter as the main ingredient of this West African condiment.

Use of soybeans to produce sumbala, by helping meet demand for the condiment, may actually help reduce pressure on supply of locust beans, thus perhaps indirectly favoring regeneration of the African locust bean tree. However, various factors make reliance on natural regeneration of the African locust bean tree unrealistic. The main hope for maintaining this tree as a component of African dry forests and sustainable source of seeds and other products will have to be its deliberate production and planting both as a tree crop in reforestation projects and as a “food tree” crop in community-level agroforestry.

In memoriam

I would like to add a brief remembrance of Prof. Sidney Mintz, one of the editors of The World of Soy, and of course a distinguished scholar whose work profoundly influenced his field of anthropology, as well as the lives of many. Prof. Mintz passed away last December after an unfortunate accident. The New York Times obituary called him the “father of food anthropology” and indeed his work on the project that resulted in The World of Soy was in this vein. According to his website, his next project was “looking at fermentation, a too little-noticed subject, when we consider that as much as one third of the food we eat is fermented.” He had a tireless intellect and genuinely inspiring approach to scholarship and to life.

My only connections with Prof. Mintz were as an undergraduate student years ago in an intro to anthropology course he taught at Johns Hopkins entitled “Human: Being and Becoming,” and of course in the soy project, including a panel presentation at the 8th Symposium on Chinese Dietary Culture in Chengdu. There are many more fitting tributes to his life and work. I can only say I was privileged to have learned from him.


* The thick seed coat may require some treatment – “scarification” – to facilitate penetration of water and germination. Manuals recommend several methods including boiling briefly, soaking in sulfuric acid, or physically nicking the seed cover (one study, for example, compares methods).  For a moderate production, on the order of 100 as I recall, I used the following simple method in Djenné, Mali during the early 1980s: Soak seeds in water overnight, remove swollen seeds for planting (we produced them in plastic pots in the nursery for later outplanting), return non-swollen seeds to fresh water to soak, with option to nick the outside of the seeds with a pocket-knife to hasten the process.

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International Year of Pulses 2016

IYP 2016 logoPulses? Grain legumes. Dried beans and lentils.

In 2013 the UN declared 2016 as International Year of Pulses, and here we are. FAO, which is facilitating implementation of the Year, explains that “[t]he IYP 2016 aims to heighten public awareness of the nutritional benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production aimed towards food security and nutrition.”

What exactly are pulses? The IYP 2016 site explains:

Pulses, also known as grain legumes, are a group of 12 crops that includes dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas, and lentils. They are high in protein, fibre, and various vitamins, provide amino acids, and are hearty crops. They are most popular in developing countries, but are increasingly becoming recognized as an excellent part of a healthy diet throughout the world.

Some pulses are also grown for fodder. As legumes, they fix nitrogen in the soil, and as crops, this group of plants apparently requires less water than some other crops like soybeans.

A specific list of the 12 pulse crops is hard to find, however the Wikipedia article helps with a list of FAO’s 11 primary pulses:

  1. Dry beans (Phaseolus spp. including several species now in Vigna)
  2. Dry broad beans (Vicia faba)
    • Horse bean (Vicia faba equina)
    • Broad bean (Vicia faba)
    • Field bean (Vicia faba)
  3. Dry peas (Pisum spp.)
    • Garden pea (Pisum sativum var. sativum)
    • Protein pea (Pisum sativum var. arvense)
  4. Chickpea, garbanzo, Bengal gram (Cicer arietinum)
  5. Dry cowpea, black-eyed pea, blackeye bean (Vigna unguiculata )
  6. Pigeon pea, Arhar/Toor, cajan pea, Congo bean, gandules (Cajanus cajan)
  7. Lentil (Lens culinaris)
  8. Bambara groundnut, earth pea (Vigna subterranea)
  9. Vetch, common vetch (Vicia sativa)
  10. Lupins (Lupinus spp.)
  11. Minor pulses, including:

Note: In the past I posted brief articles about various international years. This post resumes that practice.

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Four millets: More grains & the “millet spectrum”

The word “millet” in English is an inexact term. It can refer to any one of a number of cereals that have roundish grains, of which the four most cultivated worldwide – pearl/bajri, foxtail/xiaomi, proso, and finger/ragi – have been highlighted in the previous posts in this series. It can also refer collectively to all or some selection of them, perhaps including one or more other related grains that aren’t usually thought of as millets – notably sorghum, teff, and fonio.  For instance, one overview of millets in Africa discussed pearl millet, finger millet, teff, and fonio. The below diagram of Indian millets, on the other hand, features bajra/pearl millet, ragi/finger millet, thinai/foxtail millet (recall the Chinese name associated with this is xiaomi), and sorghum, along with two others: varagu (kodo millet) and jowar (evidently a variety of sorghum).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millet#/media/File:Indian_Millets.png

Other millets and related grains

The grains of millets and related cereals range in size, with sorghum being the largest, pearl/bajri the next, and then a number of “small millets.” ICRISAT states that there are about a dozen “small millets,” including finger/ragi, foxtail/xiaomi, and proso, which we have already covered, but not including teff or fonio. A list of millets by FAO includes the latter two. A selection of the millets other than the four already profiled, drawn from ICRISAT’s and FAO’s lists as well as other sources, and ordered roughly by size of grain from large to small, are:

Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) is sometimes also counted as a (large-grained) millet in Africa (where it originated) and the Indian subcontinent. It is a major crop worldwide – fifth overall (after corn/maize, rice, wheat, and barley, and before pearl millet) – grown for its grain and also for animal forage. See profiles in Lost Crops of Africa and the ICRISAT site. It is one of those grains touted as a possible “superfood.”

Kodo millet (Paspalum scrobiculatum), also called rice grass, originated in Africa but is cultivated mainly in India, as well as some countries in Southeast Asia. It apparently has been introduced to the US. Kodo is both wild and cultivated, and more suited to humid/damp habitats. See profiles on the USDA and IUCN Redlist sites.

Barnyard millet, may refer either to: Japanese barnyard millet (Echinochloa esculenta), or simply Japanese millet, which is grown primarily in Northeast Asia, but also in parts of the US (see profile on the USDA site); or to Indian barnyard millet (Echinochloa frumentacea), or billion-dollar grass, which is grown primarily in South Asia and parts of North America (see profile on the USDA site). These two, an uncultivated species, Echinochloa crus-galli, and perhaps others are closely related.

Little millet (Panicum sumatrense) is similar to proso millet but smaller. It is a minor crop in parts of Asia, in some areas grown up to 2100 meters altitude. See profile on the Useful Tropical Plants site.

Teff (Eragrostis tef) is a small grain of the Horn of Africa. It is described in Lost Crops of Africa, and featured last year on the BBC site as yet another superfood candidate. Teff is especially important in Ethiopian cuisine, used to make injera (እንጀራ).

Fonio, grown in various parts of West Africa, is actually two species. They are profiled in Lost Crops of Africa. The term fonio usually refers to Digitaria exilis, also known as white fonio, acha, or hungry rice. A 2014 article in The Guardian described its use in the US. Black fonio (Digitaria iburua) is grown primarily in Nigeria.

Millet spectrum

To make sense of this it might help first to consider these grains together as a “millet spectrum” ranging from large grains (sorghum) to very small (fonio). Yet this spectrum could also be reordered by color (which itself varies considerably within species) or regrouped by:

  • taxonomy (the website of the Millet Project in California has a simple breakdown by “tribe” within the grass family; note that ragi/finger millet is more closely related to teff than other grains we call millet)
  • tolerance to drought (bajri being perhaps the best in this category) vs. wet conditions (from the descriptions, kodo may be on the other extreme; sorghum, although adapted to drier conditions, can also support some inundation),
  • optimal latitudes of cultivation (per the tentative distinction made in the first post of this series between tropical or Afro-Indian millets, and temperate or Eurasian millets)
  • optimal altitudes of cultivation (ragi, teff, and little millet, for example, being adapted to higher altitudes),
  • grain structure (sorghum, pearl/bajri, and finger/ragi being more like wheat, and proso, foxtail/xiaomi, fonio, and kodo millet being more like rice in that they have hulls)
  • nutrient content (varies slightly, as one would expect, but there are some outliers, such as ragi’s calcium content)
  • flavor (a millet is not a millet when it comes to taste, even if the differences may in some cases be subtle)

To add to this complexity, each of these species has varieties and cultivars with different characteristics and names (for instance the US Alternative Field Crops Manual page on millets lists and compares several varieties of proso and foxtail). One expression of these differences in many millets, for example, is the color of the grains.

So it is a multifaceted group, which gets back to the original point of this series – to make a practice of distinguishing among the individual plants and, and from a consumer’s point of view, the individual grains. And in so doing, to also call attention to current labeling practices and regulation. But how to distinguish among millets when labeling doesn’t help?

Vive les différences!

Most millets you are likely to encounter are one of the main four discussed in this series of blogposts. Understanding which one you are looking at requires context and familiarity. Context begins with where you are, since different millets tend to be more common in different countries and cultures. In the US, most sold for human consumption is proso, though labels for it, foxtail/xiaomi and pearl/bajri will all indicate the same ingredient: “millet” (the exception seems to be ragi, which in my limited sample is labeled as “finger millet”). In different countries (and markets in the US carrying foods from them), the selection and likelihood of encountering another millet are higher, and the local names used may help disambiguate. Beyond that, characteristics like color or grain size may also help.

For example, when I found packaged millet flour at the Indian Spices store in Falls Church, Virginia, it was only the Indian name “bajri” that confirmed my hunch based on the color of the flour, that this was indeed pearl millet (the otherwise helpful staff did not know, so I did a websearch via smartphone).

As for familiarity, such as knowing the color of pearl millet flour or the relative size of proso and foxtail millets, I can only pass on some observations that give some idea. The following picture, for example, shows the grayish pearl/bajri flour on the left, and the reddish finger/ragi on the right.

bajri-ragi-flours

Flour of pearl/bajri (l.) & finger/ragi (r.)

Varieties of foxtail/xiaomi and proso that I have seen have yellow grains. I have not seen flour of either, though I imagine it would be difficult to distinguish the two, even as neither could be mistaken for either of the above. However, there is a significant difference in grain size, as illustrated in the following picture.

Foxtail/xiaomi (l.), proso (r.)

Foxtail/xiaomi (l.), proso (r.)

A quick and very subjective characterization of taste: pearl/bajri, flat; finger/ragi, sharp; proso, round; and foxtail/xiaomi, faint. I find bajri and ragi to have stronger flavors, while xiaomi and proso are blander.

Variety hidden by a name

The purpose of this series of six posts on millets, in which the main four – bajri/pearl, ragi/finger, xiaomi/foxtail, and proso – have been highlighted, is to call attention to the differences among what often get lumped together as a single “millet.” These cereals are not the same, either in the field or on the plate, even if some subsets of the larger group are similar in one or another respect. Their very diversity represents, collectively, a resource for our future as we face both increased demand for food production and a changing climate.

To facilitate thinking about – and marketing of? – these main four millets as separate grains, I’ve suggested borrowing into English some common foreign terms which, like teff or fonio, do not use the word “millet.” A further step would be food labeling that tells consumers more about the identity of the product than just “millet.”

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Four millets: 4. Proso millet

Panicum-milaceum-panicle-119x150Proso millet (Panicum miliaceum) is the fourth millet to be profiled in this series and the third most widely produced in the world. It may have originated in what is now northeastern China, but spread to other parts of Asia and to Europe in ancient times.

Proso is described on the sites of the Agricultural Marketing Research Center, Feedipedia, and ICRISAT. A blog on millets has a couple of photos of the plant.

Other English names include broom corn or broom corn millet, broomtail millet, and quite a few others according to US National Plant Germplasm System (though curiously their list does not include “proso”) and Wikipedia. Various color names are associated with this millet – red, brown, white – with “yellow proso” being the variety commonly sold for human consumption in the US (interestingly, the Chinese word for hulled proso millet, 黃米  huángmǐ, also refers to yellow color). According to one source, the term “edible millet” in the US refers to proso, and the term “common millet” is sometimes also applied, though that is problematic on several levels. The name “proso” comes from several Slavic languages (in the Cyrillic script it is просо).Pmillet-proso-proso

Proso is the most adapted of the four main millets to northern climates, being the main millet cultivated in Russia and the US. Like other millets, it can be grown on poorer soils. Although pearl millet/bajri and foxtail millet/xiaomi  are produced more worldwide, proso is actually more important on the world import/export market.

Proso only relatively recently became important in the US – during the 19th century, foxtail millet was more widely cultivated (mainly for forage). And production has also increased in recent years – a 2003 crop profile noted a dramatic increase over the preceding decade. The main use of proso in the US is for birdseed, and to lesser degrees as forage and as a food for people.

There’s millet, and then there’s millet

In 1987, when I had just come back to the US after spending 7 out of the preceding 8 years overseas – and 6 ½ of those in West Africa where I got to know pearl millet as “millet” – I went to the local East Lansing Food Coop, near where I had moved in Michigan, and found a bulk “millet” for sale. Surprised, since I had never seen “millet” before in an American foodstore – but also noting that the grains were smaller than what I had seen in Africa, and yellow instead of a duller, almost gray color – I bought some to try. Nothing like what I remembered.

I later found out that this was in fact an entirely different species of millet, usually called proso. Fast forward almost three decades to suburban Washington, DC, and bulk proso millet is still sold as “millet” (or actually “hulled millet” since proso is one of those millets that need to be hulled) in organic foods stores (photos below from Whole Foods and MOM’s Organic Market in northern Virginia).

bulk-millet

Proso millet is also sold in packages, but packaged products with “millet” in the list of ingredients are not necessarily proso millet. How to tell the difference will be one of the topics in the next post, “Four millets: More grains and the ‘millet spectrum.’”

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Four millets: 3. Foxtail millet, or xiaomi

Korean foxtail millet - from ClipArt etc.Foxtail millet (Setaria italica) is the oldest cultivated millet, the most important in East Asia, and the second most cultivated worldwide. It is believed to have been domesticated first in China, with evidence of cultivation going back about 8700 years. The species name as well as some vernacular names reflect its historic significance in Europe.

Foxtail millet is described by FAO, USDA, Feedipedia, and on the ICRISAT site. A blog on millets has several photos.

millet-foxtail-xiaomiOther English names include Italian millet, German millet, Hungarian millet, and dwarf or giant setaria. The Mandarin Chinese name for this grain is commonly said to be 小米 (xiǎomǐ), which literally means “little rice.” Chinese nomenclature for cultivated millets is actually quite complex, but xiaomi apparently refers to the hulled grain of foxtail millet (among the common names for this species and varieties of it are 谷子 gŭzǐ &  粟 ). There are of course many names in the various languages spoken where foxtail millet is cultivated – one name from India that I’ve come across is thinnai or tenai.

millet-foxtail-xiaomiXiaomi can be cooked in soup or porridge, or as one would cook rice. I find the taste milder than the previous two millets (bajri and ragi). There are glutinous varieties of this grain (seen in a market as 糯小米 nuò xiǎomǐ). Like rice, but unlike the bajri, ragi, or wheat, the grain needs to be hulled to cook – which is how it is sold, such as in the package shown on the left.

As a crop it has a wide range, cultivated across much of Asia and Europe, though as a minor crop in most of the latter. In the US it is mainly grown as animal feed and for birdseed. Interestingly, cultivation of foxtail millet in the central US increased dramatically after 1850 until it was the most widely cultivated millet in the country by the end of the century (the introduction of sudangrass as a forage crop led to a decline in cultivation of foxtail; no figures found on current foxtail vs. proso production in US).

Like other millets foxtail millet is tolerant of drought and can produce on poor soils in a short season (60-90 days for this one). On the other hand, some sources indicate its production does not benefit much from fertilizers or irrigation.

(Thanks to Jens Østergaard Petersen for his help with sources for Chinese names for millets. Needless to say, the interpretations above are mine.)

The next post in this series is “Four millets: 4. Proso millet.”

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Four millets: 2. Finger millet, or ragi

pearl-bajri crosswordFinger millet (Eleusine coracana) is the second of the four millets to be described in this series of posts, and the fourth most produced among them worldwide. It is a native of the highlands of the Horn of Africa, but the main producer is India. In Africa it is grown mainly in a number of countries in the east and south.

Finger millet is described in Lost Crops of Africa, PROTA4U, Feedipedia, and the ICRISAT site. It seems to have the most interesting nutritional profile of the four millets, including a remarkably high calcium content. There is no shortage of articles online extolling its virtues – among them, one lists 6 reasons why it “rules” and another lists “10 health benefits.”

finger-ragi crosswordOther English names for finger millet include eleusine, caracan millet, koracan, and apparently also “pampered corn.” The color of the grain and its flour is reddish (compared to the grayish appearance of previously profiled pearl millet), so yet another name is red millet. It of course has names in the languages of regions where people cultivate it, and of these probably the most common is one used widely in South Asia, “ragi“: रागी (Hindi & Rajasthani); ರಾಗಿ (Kannada); ராகி (Tamil); రాగి (Telugu); راگی (Urdu).

Africa

Bessa Bushera canAlthough finger millet/ragi is apparently cultivated in parts of West Africa, I don’t recall ever seeing or eating it there. It was in Uganda that I first encountered it in the form of a non-alcoholic “millet” drink called “bushera” (a photo of a can of marketed locally is shown on left). It tasted a bit different than what I would have expected from the pearl millet I already knew (even allowing for some sorghum content in the beverage). There are also fermented beers – including an alcoholic version of bushera – made with this grain.

Unfortunately I did not have the chance to try any dishes prepared with finger millet from East Africa. One major use is in porridge (for two different takes on finger millet porridge with reference to Africa, see here & here).

Various sources indicate that production in Africa declined for many years in favor of crops like corn/maize, but that it is on the rise again with some help from projects (Worldwatch has a good overview, even if a bit dated, and an African Research Institute article gives a good case study from Zimbabwe).

South Asia

An article in The Hindu mentions some uses of finger millet, focusing on India:

the ragi grain is malted and the grains are ground and consumed, mixed with milk, boiled water or yogurt. Also, the ragi flour is made into flatbreads, including thick, leavened dosa and thinner and even unleavened rotis. It can be ground and cooked into cakes, puddings or porridges, Or, the grain is even fermented and converted to a drink (or beer) in Nepal and in many parts of Africa.

The Pinterest site features a collection of recipes, many of which seem from a quick look to be from South Asia.

Ragi is cultivated notably in Karnataka, Kerela, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamilnadu provinces of India. Production levels have evidently been declining slowly over the last 20 years, but it is still a major crop. (A fact sheet on ragi culture may be of interest.)

Personal use in the U.S.

Not long after I found bajri flour in a local Indian food market, I decided to experiment with ragi from the same store – main object being something new to try for breakfasts (my responsibility on weekdays). As with bajri, I tried this with a breakfast oatmeal cooked with some ragi flour added. I found this grain has a relatively strong taste, almost tangy compared to the other millets. Also tried it with whole wheat in a bread, which worked out well, and tried a pre-made ragi crêpe mix, which was not as successful (probably user error). A ragi breakfast cereal was also interesting.

Ragi as a “super grain”?

Given its nutritional profile and unique taste, ragi seems to stand out among the millets, meriting the moniker “super grain.” (A web search will turn up a number of articles on ragi / finger millet as a super grain, as well as a number of others grouping millets together as one super grain.)

As a crop, ragi is drought hardy like many other millets, and is adapted to high altitudes and diverse climates. It requires much less soil nitrogen to produce, but evidently responds well to fertilizer (not a given with all crops). On the other hand, management and harvest are labor intensive. All together, however, one could imagine that ragi has an important future as a crop and food in regions like the US that do not yet know it well.

The next post in this series is “Four millets: 3. Foxtail millet, or xiaomi.”

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