If there’s one modern trend that demonstrates just how far we’ve gotten away from traditional food, it’s our ability to eat whatever we want, whenever we want it. This trend totally ignores things like locality and seasonality that our nanis and dadis relied on, and it’s a big reason people are dealing with more and more health problems.
One of the best ways we can reverse this trend is to bring back foods that our grandparents ate regularly but which are uncommon nowadays. With that in mind, maybe no food is better for traditional, local, healthy eating than millets, a super grain that have been grown since ancient times and handed over to us by our great grandfathers. In general, millets are a type of small seeded grass with a short growing season that traditionally grows in arid climates. However, there are many types of millets that are right for different seasons, different dishes, and provide different health benefits. Some of the most common are barnyard millet (Jhangora), foxtail millet (Kangni), finger millet (Ragi) and sorghum millet (Jawar). In earlier times millets were consumed every day in at least one meal, but the kind of millet eaten was based on the season and the harvest.
There are lots you can do with millets, and different varieties can be prepared in different ways. Traditionally millets are used to make rotis and other flat breads, or they can be mixed with pulses to make kichries. Ragi or finger millet flour can be used for cakes, cookies, or pancakes. It is also traditionally given to babies, women and old people to drink as ragi malt and ragi kanji because it is very high in calcium. Foxtail and barnyard millets are great for upma and are a good substitute for rice, or you can try mixing them in creative ways to make a delicious salad (see below for some ideas).
Millets are considered healthy in both Ayurvedic and western medicine. In Ayurveda, millets are considered Sweet, Heating, Dry and Light. This makes them special because they are very satisfying and nourishing, but also light and easy to digest. In western medical terms, millets are a highly nutritious, non-glutinous and non-acid forming food. This makes them soothing, easily digestible and perfect for those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. Millets are particularly high in minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. Ragi, or finger millet is the richest in calcium, with about 10 times that of rice or wheat. In general, millets are fairly high on the Glycemic Index (GI) so it is best prepared with a little high quality oil, like pure desi ghee, or with additional high fiber foods, to slow the GI of the whole dish.
In honor of the changing seasons, I want to share some delicious, millet-based recipes that are perfect for the season, organic, local, and great for you!
Cooking with Foxtail Millet
Enjoy your millet in three different, delicious ways! These recipes all use a very versatile and nutritious grain called Foxtail millet, or Kangni in Hindi.
Note: For best results, use unpolished millet grains. Dry roasting your millets beforehand will give you fluffy, light grains after cooking.
- Millet …1 cup
- Water… 2 1/2,cups
- Oil…. 2 tablespoon
- Peanuts…. 2 tablespoon
- Mustard seeds…1 tsp
- Urad dal… 1 tsp
- Chana dal…1 tsp
- Haldi …….. 1 tsp
- Whole red chillies a few
- Curry leaves… A few
- Lemon juice of 2lemons
Wash the millet and boil with 2 cups of water, when it starts boiling reduce the heat and cook for 3 minutes and switch off the fire and let it sit till all the water gets absorbed. Then fluff it up with a fork.
Heat the oil until the mustard seeds sizzle, add chana dal, then urad dal when it starts browning. Add red chillies and curry leaves to the millet. Then, make the lemon sauce:
- Add lemon juice and haldi to 1/2 katori water.
- Mix the above lemon sauce to the millet.
Toss well and you have a healthy lemon rice!
- Boil the millet as given above
- Toss the millet with the salad veggies you have at home or in the season.
- Toss the mix with home made dressing of lemon juice and olive oil, garnish with seasonal herb leaves, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You may also add some nuts or seeds to taste
- Boil the millet as given above.
- Add coconut milk and jaggery shakkar as per your taste, and serve.