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Millet: the Egyptian's choice

(post, Michaele Kruger)

primary-image, l

Over the next few months I would like to introduce you to the world of grains, focusing specifically on those that a gluten-sensitive person can tolerate.

Reader, meet Millet.  

The millet plant very closely resembles that of corn.  It grows about 15 feet tall and can grow in climates that wheat and barley otherwise will not.  This grain is very small and you can see in the picture above that it is a round little bead of a grain.  Research tells me that this grain can come in a variety of colors from gray to red, but I've only ever seen yellow (and I've bought this grain in a few different countries now), which is pictured above.  

While Millet is not a staple food for most Americans, it is however for Indians, Africans, Chinese and Russians.  The egyptians made flat pita bread from millet, incorporating stone-ground millet and brewed beer.  Until corn and potatoes were cultivated en-mass in Europe, millet was the preferred grain.  

There are many nutritional benefits to this tiny grain as well.  While all plants are complete proteins, this grain does have a large percentage of protein, with up to 10-20% of the content coming from protein.  This make millet higher in protein than wheat, corn, and rice.  Millet is also a good wource of phosphorous and magnesium (2 minerals many Americans need much more of), as well as B vitamins.  

Millet also hapens to be gluten-free.  It is generally thought to be hypoallergenic as well.  If you have food sensitivities this grain should be stocked in your pantry.  I buy it at Whole Foods Market in the bulk department. 

OK.  Enough history.  I'm sure what you all really want to know is what to do with this little pearl.  

To cook millet, add 1 part millet to 3 pots boiling water (or a combo of boiling water and low sodium veggie stock).  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes.  This technique makes a nice fluffly cooked grain.  For a creamier consistancy, add water to the grain a little bit at a time and stir frequently (if you've ever made risotto this will be a familiar technique).  
Any time you cook rice, replace it with millet.  Due to it's nutritional benefits, it's a great addition to any plate.  
Use millet at breakfast, following cooking directions above and adding fruit, walnuts, and dried fruit to sweeten.  
Millet flour (ground millet) is a grea addition to breads and can even substitute wheat flour in any traditional biscuit recipe.  
You can add cooked millet to soup (if you cook the millet in the soup make sure to add a lot of extra water... )
Toast the millet in a dry sautee pan, prior to cooking, to give it a more nutty flavor.  Just make sure you stir often and are careful not to burn it.  This adds depth to the recipe.  
Now that you have a few ideas of how to incorporate this grain in your life, try it out.  In general, the typical American diet is overloaded with wheat.  Even if you do not have Celiac's Disease, are not gluten intolerant or even gluten sensitive, it will most likely benefit you to start incorporating a variety of whole grains in your diet.  Try shaking things up a little bit and see if you notice a difference in the way you feel or digest your food.  I'd love to hear back from you on all the ways you have been able to incorporate millet into your diet.  

Each month, I'll feature a different grain, providing you with a little history, some of the nutritional highlights and benefits, as well as recipes.  During that month, give some of the recipes and suggestions a shot and before too long you'll have a much more varied and healthy diet.  

Please feel free to ask me any questions and I love comments too!