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Millets are the new Wine

A brown top millet (Brachiaria Ramosa) plant. More than 30 tillers from a single seed. Observed in a millet farm just outside Kadiri, AP in Oct. 2015.

A brown top millet (Brachiaria Ramosa) plant. More than 30 tillers from a single seed. Observed in a millet farm just outside Kadiri, AP in Oct. 2015.

Millets are special.

There are many different grains, at least 10 of them, that are broadly classified as millets. Millets are rain fed crops that have been cultivated for many a millennia in pretty much all parts of the world. If you are interested to read more about pre-historic food grains and our attempts to understand and reconstruct their movements back then, do check out this amazing resource from Cambridge University.

As one would expect of something done by generation after generation in many many places – there are thousands of varieties of each millet. Think about it, from an evolutionary perspective, each of these traditional local varieties have survived the floods, the droughts, the hail storms, and what not. Their resilience is also evident in how preferred a food source millets are to birds, grazing animals and many other players in the ecosystem. Each variety is a specialization to the local climate, soil and culture.

And most importantly, to our discussion here and to the broader appreciation of ‘the other’, each variation has its own bouquet of flavors, size and cooking characteristic. Grains from the same farm, cultivated by the same farmer will have a small variation from the normal based on whether the rains were normal, deficient or excess that year.

Given that most millets are short duration crops, and the period with grains on the plant (aka reproductive stage) is a fraction of that time, I would expect that the degree of influence that shortened day light would have on the quality of the grain would be significant and appreciable.

No wonder then that the foxtail millet grown on a east facing hill slope will cook and taste different from the foxtail millet harvested of the same seed but grown in the plains a few kms away.

So thus I rest my case that Millets are the new wine.

PS: I was inspired to write this after cooking and eating the heavenly kodo millet rice that from Kaulige Foods yesterday. Unfortunately, I did not take any photographs before it disappeared off our plates. I shall post about it in a few days when we cook this the next time.

Millets have a higher satiety index when compared to white paddy rice, i.e. one feels full and sated after eating a smaller quantity of millets as compared to white paddy rice. As one would expect the satiety index is not a very objective quantity. It is a statistical construct to quantify a subjective thing and hence should typically be considered as a range or as a comparative measure rather than an indicator of an absolute characteristic.

The satiety index for millets, generally speaking, is about 130 to 150% as that of white paddy rice. i.e. one would need to eat 1.3 to 1.5 cups of cooked white paddy rice to feel as full as one does after eating 1 cup of cooked millet rice. Little millet rice would be on the lower bound of this range while finger millet or pearl millet would be at the upper bound of this range.

With this in mind, let us now get down to planning a meal in which we will prepare a millet rice instead of white paddy rice.

Remember that white paddy rice typically needs 2 cups of water for each cup of dry rice measure, while 1 cup of a dry millet rice needs about 3 cups of water to cook. For some millet varieties this can be even up to 3.5 to 4 cups of water. The best way to identify the exact proportion is to prepare a small quantity and verify.

Now lets say that a family usually cooks 1 cup of white paddy rice for their meal. So this would mean that typically eat about 3 cups of cooked white paddy rice. Applying the satiety index proportion of 130%, we get 3/1.3 i.e. approximately 2.3 cups of cooked millet rice. Using a 1:3 proportion of water, we would need to use about 0.6 cups of dry millet rice and 1.8 cups of water.

Hope this helps ! Feel free to point out errors, ask clarifications …

Proportion of water
In general good unpolished millet rice when cooked with

  • 1:2.5 times of water results in a dry and fluffy consistency
  • 1:3.5 times of water results in a wet and fluffy consistency

Trial and error is the best way to confirm how much water is needed. Try cooking a small quantity and see whether result is satisfactory. Make appropriate corrections before arriving at the proportion that works best for you and your family. Please note that even for a particular millet, the preferred proportion might change on the source of the millet rice, especially the variety. So when starting a new packet of millets, play it safe and do a trial.

Open cooking millet rice

  • use a wide based utensil
  • bring water to a boil
  • add the washed rice and
  • open cook for about 15 minutes on a low flame
  • close the lid partially, it will boil over if you close it fully
  • once cooked, turn off the flame, sprinkle a hand full of water, close the lid tight and let sit for about 30 min.
  • Fluff up the cooked rice after it has cooled down a bit
  • Please note that mixing or using a ladle in a just cooked, hot millet rice will tend to mash it and give it a mushy consistency.

Millet rice using a pressure cooker

  • Millet rice grains are smaller (and lighter) than paddy rice grains and they
    • do not need as much pressure to cook
    • get lifted off the container and splatter all over the inside of the cooker much easier than paddy rice grains
  • The thickness of the layer with grains that get cooked to a mushy consistency can be minimized by using a pressure pan with a wider base rather than a tall cooker
  • If using a (good and properly working) pressure cooker, simmer the flame once the pressure builds up close to the threshold level (the ‘weight’ begins to quiver/spin/dance, getting ready to lift up and vent steam/blow whistle)
  • after a couple of minutes, turn off the flame; yes, the whistle does not need to blow.You will need to keep it on a low flame for a longer duration for Foxtail, Kodo and Proso millets. Little and Barnyard millets cook much quicker.
  • put a cloth on top of the cooker (to reduce the rate at which it cools down) ! please make sure the flame has been turned off !
  • Kodo Millet rice cooked in a pressure pan with 1:4 water.

    Kodo Millet rice cooked in a pressure pan with 1:4 water

  • once the pressure has dissipated, open the cooker, sprinkle a fist full of water, close the lid tight and let sit for about 30 min.
  • fluff up the cooked rice after it has cooled down a bit
  • Please note that mixing or using a ladle in a just cooked, hot millet rice will tend to mash it and give it a mushy consistency.

Unlike paddy rice, all millet rice absorb water even after they are cooked. So cook your millet rice say an hour in advance. The step mentioned above – to sprinkle a handful of water and letting it sit with the lid closed tight, helps quench at least part of its thirst giving the cooked rice a softer texture.

Hello world!

Hello world, I am a millet. If you have no clue as to who/what I am (damn Green Revolution!), this is a good place to find out more. If you have heard about me, this is still a good place to find out more.

This blog has been created as a space to document information about millets. You will be able to learn about the following:

We hope you will incorporate millets into your life and share your experience(s) with others using this blog as a forum for healthy discussion.

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