Millet 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. Today millet ranks as the sixth most important grain in the world and sustains 1/3 of the world’s population.
Millet is highly nutritious, non-glutinous and like buckwheat and quinoa, but 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 climates.
Millet 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 and is also a good source of copper and manganese. You may want to give millet a try if you are allergic to wheat.
Millet 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.
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. Once 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 for many.
There 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. The grain has a fluffier texture when less water is used and is very moist and dense when cooked with extra water. Keep it covered and undisturbed while it cooks, and you'll produce a millet that is fluffy; stir it often and it will have a creamy consistency, like a cooked cereal.
The 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. You can also try soaking the grain overnight. The next morning, 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.
Millet has no characteristic flavor of its own, and it tends to take on the flavor of the foods it is prepared with. It 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. Millet may also be sprouted for use in salads and sandwiches.
Millet 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.
Properly 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.
Posted by lisa on 22nd Jan 2014
I've found this to be more "starchy" tasting than Quinoa & Amaranth. I cooked it like most other grains, soaking, draining, rinsing, then boiling - then used it in lieu of spaghetti one night. Obviously the texture & size was different (more chewy?) - but I felt it was a great substitute! It was very satisfying, and I didn't feel at all deprived on "Spaghetti Night".