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Posts Tagged ‘rain fed farming’

There is an old wisdom shared in almost all languages of the subcontinent – that all seeds are grains but not all grains can qualify to be used as seeds. Recently grains of 6 different millet varieties were processed at the Earth360 facility in Kadiri, A.P.. While part of the size based selection is done using a grader, the larger & heavier grains (the images in the left hand side column) are selected for seeds using multiple passes in a destoner. The remaining material (the images in the right hand side column) shall be collected and used for other purposes, including for processing to human edible forms.

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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.

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