The term 'ancient grain' is a distinction given to staple grains (or seeds) that have been cultivated by humans for hundreds (thousands!) of years. Almost every culture has traditional ancient grains that have nourished and sustained their population for centuries. Grains like teff in Ethiopia, millet in China, sorghum in southern Africa, and maize (corn) in the Americas are some of the ancient grains that we'll be featuring here on GreenUPGRADER over the next few weeks.
Ancient grains are important for lots of reasons: not only do these wholesome, unprocessed foods offer a change from our wheat-heavy food culture, most ancient grains are deeply nutritious. Wheat is good for us too (as long as we're not allergic), but ancient grains maintain a higher nutritinoal profile because they have not been hybridized or industrialized like modern wheat. And many of these grains are totally whole, meaning nothing has been removed and all the vitamins and minerals are intact. Finally, most ancient grains are gluten-free too, which is why they are gaining in popularity across the foodie world.
Today's post will focus on teff, the world's tiniest seed!
Sometimes written as tef or t’ef, this small brown seed (referred to as a pseudo-grain) is the smallest whole grain in the world. It can range in color from ivory to red to dark brown, which is the most common. Despite its small size, teff is loaded with calcium, protein and fiber. It is also high in resistant starch, which is a recently discovered type of starch that can help with blood sugar balance and weight management. You can find Teff in the bulk section of well-stocked natural foods stores, but also Bob's Red Mill makes bags of Teff and Teff flour as part of their 'Grains of Discovery' series.
Teff is the staple grain of Ethiopia and used to make injera flatbread. Injera is made from fermented teff flour and served at most meals. But when cooked on the stovetop, teff has a slightly sticky texture that can be cooked into breakfast porridge (see the recipe below), added to stews, or mixed with cornmeal for a multi-grain polenta. You can also find teff flour, which can be used in gluten-free baking.
Teff Porridge with Honey
1 cup whole-grain Teff
2- 2½ cups water
Almond milk and honey to taste
- Bring teff, water and salt to a low boil in a small saucepan. Cover and let simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes, until teff is very creamy. Add more water if teff seems too dry.
- Divide between 2 or 4 serving bowls. Pour on almond milk and drizzle with honey. Enjoy while warm!
Here are some other recipes featuring this awesome little grain:
- Ginger Molasses Cookies from Vibrant Wellness Journal (see image above)
- Teff and Bean Burgers from Healthy Tipping Point
- Teff Breakfast Porridge with nuts & raisins from Whipped, The Blog (see photo below)
- Whole-Grain Salad from Down to Earth Hawaii