Popularising millet meals

A farmer showcase millet crop in his finger millet field. DH Photo

It was heavy, it was tall,
It sprouted, it eared,
It nodded, it hung,
Indeed the lucky grains were sent down to us
The black millet, the double kernelled, millet, pink sprouted and white.

So goes the folk song from China - a melodious litany to the treasure trove of nutrition, the oldest food known to mankind.

As the debate rages on nutrition quality of the modern-day food and the lifestyle changes has traditional Indian staple food sidelined, the household kitchens are fast losing nutritional value in its food. The sedentary living and younger generation turning to chats and burgers is leading to losing best dietary components like millets – a rich source of nutrition with high protein and minerals.

Beginning today, the Nanjaraja Bahadur hall near Hotel Metropole will host two-day Millet’s Mela – a display and sale of wide variety of millets. Sahaja Samrudha, a Bangalore-based organisation working towards reviving traditional millets and for the cause of organic food is bringing the two-day expo to city.

The expo aims at welcoming millets back into our meals. It would showcase different families of millets and scores of myriad varieties of each of the families like ragi or finger millet, navane or foxtail millet, sajje or pearl millet, udube or born yard millet, korulu or proso millet jowar or great millet.

“The expo will introduce pseudo millets which are exclusively grown in B R Hills and Kollegal. Besides, the expo will bring 40 varieties of jowar, 30 varieties of navane and 48 varieties of ragi,” Krishnaprasad, director of Sahaja Samrudha told City Herald.

“Conserving millets is important due to their nutritional contribution and their role in local agro-ecosystem. The focus is also to conserve and protect these millets to posterity and this can be achieved by reintroducing them into farming system,” asserts Krishnaprasad.

According to him, there are six major millets grown in Karnataka and proso millet grown in Madhugiri and Koratagere (Tumkur dist) and pseudo millets of B R Hills are rich in dietary fibre, iron and calcium besides other nutrient supplements.

“The governments are pushing wheat and rice as staple diet. The fibre content in Indian household meals has reduced drastically leading to increased ailments such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The millets can help check sugar levels and high blood pressure. It is a staple food for people of all age group – from children to adults,” he adds.

Sahaja Samrudha has collaborated with the Deccan Development Society which is promoting and popularising millets among consumers for past two decades.

The organisation which is into promoting natural farming took to programmes linking farmers and consumers through millet.

Says Krisnnaprasad: “The first ever millet mela in Bangalore early this year received good response. We hope the mela in Mysore will educate the people on the importance of millet in our diet.”

The expo would also organise interaction programme with food technologists and experts on the importance of millets. Members of public will also get an opportunity to interact with millet farmers, growers from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Soon, millets and millet based food brands will be available in organic food outlets Aarambha, Nesara and Jeevamrutha across Mysore city, says Krishnaprasad.

About millets

Millets are small-seeded species crops, grown around the world for food and fodder. These crops have the ability to thrive in harsh environment.

They are used as food sources in arid and semi-arid regions. The protein content in these species is very close to that of wheat, but in addition they are also rich in vitamin B nutrients and calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc. Minor millets will make high energy, nutritious food comparable to any other cereals. They can act as a shield against nutritional deficiency disorders and provide nutritional security.

Millets are the name given to a group of cereals other than wheat, rice, maize and barley.

Interestingly, it was millets and not rice that was a staple food in Indian, Chineseand Neolithic civilization.

Eventually, they spread all over the world. There are 6,000 varieties of millet around the world.

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