Millet is one of the oldest grains that have been cultivated by mankind. Evidence suggests that it was originally cultivated in the warmer parts of the world (East Asia, South Asia, Africa) due to its hardiness to semi-arid environments. Millet has a slightly nutty flavor which is enhanced by toasting it before boiling. It also has sweet notes that have been said to be reminiscent of corn. When cooked, millet has a fluffy texture much like over-steamed rice or mashed potatoes.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Order: Poales
- Family: Poaceae
- Genus: Pennisetum
- Species: P. glaucum
- Binomial name: Pennisetum glaucum
- Millet is one of the hardiest whole grains, being able to thrive in relatively infertile areas and is fairly drought resistant.
- Millet is primarily grown as animal fodder, but recent studies that show its nutritional properties have slowly reintroduced millet to the public as a specialty grain.
- Millet flour does not “rise” as much as flour made from other grains, this is why it cannot be used for leavened bread applications.
- Millet has a low glycemic index, making it a great alternative as a rice replacement for people suffering from type-II diabetes.
- Millet is generally higher in protein than most whole grains.
Millet Buying Guide
Millet can usually be found in the whole grains section of specialty health stores or at your local farmers’ market. Commercial production of millet is mostly for animal fodder use, but there are some producers that farm and supply millet that’s been grown for human consumption. You can also check online for local millet producers in your area where you can order to have them delivered, or if you live close enough, pick it up from the growers themselves.
Millet can also come in many different forms and here are some that you might come across:
- Whole Grain – The most common form of millet. For recipes that call for ‘millet’, this is the product to pick.
- Grits – Just like corn, millet comes in cracked form as well. This is perfect for millet porridge or polenta. If you can’t find millet grits and your recipe calls for it, just give whole grain millets a buzz in the food processor and you’ll get millet grits.
- Puffed millet – Think of rice crispies (puffed rice) but made out of millet. This is a healthy choice for a recipe that calls for rice crispies or it can be consumed as a cereal with milk.
- Millet Flour – This is a good choice for those looking for gluten-free flour. Just take into consideration that this does not work well in leavened bread applications.
Millet Production & Farming in Texas
Millet has long been grown in Texas (both intentionally and unintentionally) as fodder for livestock but the recent adaptation of millet as a health food has led many small farmers to grow millet grain and make these available in specialty stores and farmers’ markets. Since millet is fast-growing, it is often planted when grain harvests come early and there is a late-season gap in which millet can be grown. While not as popular as quinoa or amaranth, there is still a demand for millet as a whole grain in the state. You can find locally grown millet in many gristmills around the state as well as in specialty health stores.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
There isn’t much data available pesticides and chemicals when it comes to millet, but if your millet comes from a local grower, there’s a large chance that that millet has been grown organically since it is a very hardy plant (it’s even considered a weed by some people due to its hardiness).
Millet is packaged much like any other grain. It can come in burlap bags, plastic bags, resealable kraft paper bags, and in sacks. Grain packaging hasn’t changed much in recent years and it will probably remain that way for years to come.
Millet can be prepared much like rice or quinoa but with a more “mushy” texture reminiscent of mashed potatoes. To draw out the nutty flavor of the millet, toast them in a little bit of oil before cooking them in water or stock.
Millet is a pretty hardy grain and can be stored under the proper condition for years. Just make sure to store them in an airtight container away from heat, humidity, and light.
Risotto has been long been considered as a high-end dish and millet on the other end of the spectrum. This recipe will combine the best of both worlds and at the same time, provide a gluten-free dish that’s much healthier than traditional risotto.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 2 tablespoons
Diced small white onion, 1 piece
Minced garlic cloves, 2 pieces
Millet, 1 cup
Dry white wine, 1 cup
Vegetable stock, 5 cups
Unsalted butter, 3 tablespoons
Parmesan Cheese, ¼ cup
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large saucepan, melt the butter and saute garlic and onion until soft.
Add the millet and continue to stir while cooking for two minutes.
Add the wine to the pan and continue to cook and stir for one minute.
Add the stock to the millet one cup at a time. Stir occasionally. Every time the stock level is low, add another cup of stock. Once all of the stock has been used and the millet al dente, remove from the heat and add the butter and Parmesan cheese.
Serve and enjoy!
Vitamins and Minerals:
- Thiamin 28% of RDA
- Vitamin B6 19% of RDA
- Magnesium 29% of RDA
- Copper 38% of RDA
- Iron 17% of RDA