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Marvelous Millet: A Grain You Should Try

Scoop of Millet

Maggie Hawthorne

Does the word "millet" sound familiar to you, but doesn't seem very appetizing? It may be because this mild-flavoured grain is primarily used in the Western world as bird seed. But millet is not just for our feathered friends; it's good for people, too. Many of us are unfamiliar with this mysterious food, but it may be worth your while to get to know this nutrient-dense, versatile grain a little better.

You may recognize millet if you've seen it in a bag of bird seed: it's tiny, tan-coloured, and shaped like a little seed. But millet is actually a grain, grown on stalks much like wheat. Unlike many other plants, millet thrives in dry environment, making it a popular crop in arid regions in Africa and southern Asia. And did you know that millet is one of the oldest foods on record? It's mentioned in the Bible and in documents pertaining to the Stone Age!

One of the reasons millet has been popular for millennia is because of how many essential nutrients it contains: it's high in fiber, B vitamins, and iron. Millet is also packed with protein, with almost 15 percent of your daily requirement found in one serving. And because it is gluten-free, it's a great option for people who are allergic to or intolerant of wheat.

So how do you fit this healthy grain into your diet? It's easy because of the mellow flavour and ease of preparation. Many people prefer to toast the millet beforehand to enhance the natural nutty flavours. This is done by stirring the grain constantly over medium heat for about three minutes or until a grainy aroma can be smelled. When cooked with a small amount of liquid, millet has a lighter texture, similar to pilaf. Adding more liquid makes it moist and dense. A basic recipe for millet is to use 3 parts liquid to one part millet and to simmer for half an hour. Pre-soaking the grains shortens cooking time by up to 10 minutes.

Because of its mild flavour, millet is very versatile and can be added to many dishes you already enjoy. After being cooked, it is a great add-in to cold salads, including pasta or bean salads. When toasted along with rolled oats, seeds and nuts, millet is a very nutritious component of granola, and adding stir-fried vegetables to the basic millet recipe will result in an easy and delicious pilaf. And while it may not appeal to all tastes, some people like to puree cooked millet into millet 'mashed potatoes'.

Millet is a well-loved grain in many parts of the globe, and it continues to gain popularity in the Western world as we discover its many nutritional benefits. This superfood fits in well with many dishes and can add a powerful punch of protein, so don't be mistaken - millet is not just for your bird feeder, it's for your body, too!

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