Millets are a staple crop for tens of millions of people throughout Asia and Africa. Known as Smart Food, millets are gluten-free, and an excellent source of protein, calcium, iron, zinc and dietary fiber. They can also be a better choice for farmers and the planet, requiring 30 percent less water than maize, 70 percent less water than rice, and can be grown with fewer expensive inputs, demanding little or no fertilizers and pesticides.
Despite these benefits, millets have fallen out of favor in recent decades, often being perceived as a low-value crop for the poor. Research and development money has mostly been dedicated to rice, maize and wheat, and consequently, those crops became symbols of socio-economic improvement. Markets and supply chains developed to support them, consumers sought to eat them, and farmers were encouraged to grow them.
This perception is beginning to shift, however. In India, the federal government has declared 2018 as the National Year of Millets. Leading the way in shifting public perception are innovative chefs who recognize the nutritional and environmental benefits of millets, and are incorporating them into their menus to champion local agricultural diversity, experiment with new ingredients, and celebrate culinary traditions.
Food Tank is highlighting 10 chefs who are drawing from these traditional grains to inspire culinary innovations, transforming "old-fashioned" millets into foods for the future.
1. Sri Ram, Ahaar Kuteer
Ahaar Kuteer is an all-millet restaurant in Begumpet, Hyderabad. After 10 years in the IT industry, Sri Ram made a dramatic career change, founding the city's first eatery to focus primarily on millets, and is passionate about inspiring healthy diets by promoting millets as a better grain choice. Ahaar Kuteer is now a popular spot with vegans and health-conscious eaters, serving up millet-centric breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
2. Sabyasachi Gorai, Lavaash by Chef Saby
For chef and culinary entrepreneur Sabyasachi Gorai, the resurgence of millets will be more than just another trend. Gorai believes that their nutritional advantages and role in preserving India's agricultural biodiversity will cement millets in the culinary mainstream as flavorful and versatile ingredients. Signature Chef Saby dishes, like black olive millet risotto and millet cranberry laddoo are popularizing millets as a healthy and delicious grain alternative.
3. Prateek Sadhu, Masque
Prateek Sadhu is head chef at Masque, a Mumbai farm-to-fork restaurant that has made waves in the city's culinary scene since opening in 2016. Chef Sadhu's talent and creativity in the kitchen is apparent as he utilizes a dizzying variety of unusual, but always in-season ingredients for Masque's menu, which changes every two weeks. He believes in promoting the variety and versatility of local crops like millets, showing how they are suitable for nearly any setting, from traditional home-cooking to experimental fine-dining.
4. Surendra Gandharva and Manoj Prajapat, Millets of Mewar
Surendra (Sunny) Gandharva and Manoj (Manu) Prajapat, are big fans of millets—the pair founded Millets of Mewar in 2011, in their hometown of Udaipur after years of cooking and promoting local, nutritious food. Millets of Mewar was a natural progression of this work, with millets being the centerpiece of a menu promoting healthy and environmentally conscious eating. The cafe also serves as a community hub, hosting artistic performances, book exchanges, and sustainability initiatives.
5. Pierre Thiam, Pierre Thiam Catering
Pierre Thiam is arguably Senegal's best-known chef. But more than just a chef, he has been sharing Senegalese culinary traditions with the world. Among his priorities has been to popularize fonio, a variety of millet with over 5,000 years of history in Senegalese cuisine. Thiam is currently working to bring high profile New York City chefs to Senegal, in an effort to popularize the country's food in the West, which he hopes will result in a revitalization of native cuisine in Senegal, and preserve the diversity of traditional crops like fonio and other millet varieties with strong roots in African cultures.
6. N.S. Krishnamoorthi, Prems Graama Bhojanam
N.S. Krishnamoorthi's restaurant Prems Graama Bhojanam (PGB) is based on a simple premise: traditional, rural dishes based around millets, brought to the city of Chennai. Krishnamoorthi has decades of cooking experience, traveling through much of India for work. During his travels, he fell for the village food he often enjoyed in homes and family-run hotels, coming from food cultures still steeped in tradition and local ingredients, including millets. He brought this approach to the big city. Millets are found in every dish on the menu at PGB, and Krishnamoorthi is happy his traditional approachis catching on with the next generation, with urban young adults forming the majority of his customer base.
7. Jonathan Bethony, SEYLOU Bakery Mill
Millets won over baker Jonathan Bethony during a tour of an organic grain farm, just outside his hometown of Washington D.C. Bethony had come to the farm looking to source wheat for his D.C. based bakery and mill, SEYLOU, but he left with another idea in mind. Inspired by how farmer Heinz Thomet managed his land by minimizing inputs, rotating crops, and growing a variety of cereal grains, he sought to support farmers like Thomet by incorporating other local grains into his baking. He immediately challenged his pastry chef to bake with only millets for a week. They were both impressed with the results, and creations including a millet canelé and a millet chocolate chip cookie have made it permanently onto their menu. Following his millet revelation, Bethony traveled to Africa to learn more about the Millet Business Services Project, an initiative working to improve the value chain of millets in Senegal.
8. Manu Chandra, Toast and Tonic
When renowned chef Manu Chandra opened his 13th restaurant in Mumbai in 2017, he emphasized sustainability and utilizing local, seasonal ingredients as focal points of the new venture. Millets feature front and center in Chandra's food philosophy. He is a major proponent of the grains in India, citing their nutritional and environmental benefits, along with their versatility as an ingredient. Chandra has utilized millets in desserts, pancakes, salads, croquettes, and even featured a millet risotto bar at a large catering event.
9. Thomas Zacharias, The Bombay Canteen
The Bombay Canteen, located in Mumbai, has been listed as one of the world's 50 best restaurants, known for its high-quality menu emphasizing local ingredients. Executive chef Thomas Zacharias showcases regional Indian cuisine through the use of a variety of millets. Jowar, kodo, foxtail, and proso millets all make appearances on his ever-evolving menu. Zacharias sees the variety and versatility of millets as an enormous source of inspiration and culinary innovation. Given their nutritional benefits and cultural significance in Indian cuisine, he is hopeful that many more chefs will follow suit.
10. Ramasamy Selvaraju, Vivanta by Taj
Chef Ramasamy Selvaraju is turning the preconception of millets as a food for the rural poor on its head at the upscale Vivanta, in Bangalore. Six months after introducing the grains onto his menu, customers were asking for even more millet-based options. Selvaraju sees this as an indication of the shifting perceptions of the urban middle class, who are beginning to seek out millets for their nutritional advantages. The breakfast buffet at Vivanta features a sorghum millet congee, proso millet banana loaf, and kodo millet muffins, among many other millet-based options. Selvaraju has even begun conducting workshops on cooking with the traditional grains.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
- Climate Crisis: What We Can Learn From Indigenous Traditions ... ›
- 10 Organizations Honoring Native People on Thanksgiving ... ›
- Biden Vows to Ax Keystone XL if Elected - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.
Anger, anxiety, overwhelm … climate change can evoke intense feelings.
- Your Guide to Talking With Kids of All Ages About Climate Change ... ›
- 7 of the Best Ted Talks About Climate Change - EcoWatch ›
- Katharine Hayhoe Reveals Surprising Ways to Talk About Climate ... ›
An extremely rare North Atlantic right whale calf was found dead off the North Carolina coast on Friday.
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="24c36ab7f041f96875677ba1e9dc1944"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/CapeLookoutNPS/posts/3608024915884969"></div></div>
- 411 North Atlantic Right Whales Remain: This Solution Could Help ... ›
- Sixth North Atlantic Right Whale Found Dead Prompts Concern ... ›
- First North Atlantic Right Whale Calf of the Season Spotted off ... ›