Eat Your… Teff

Teff

In Ethiopian, teff means “lost”, ostensibly due to its dirt-like appearance; drop it on the ground and you can’t find it. It is one of the smallest grains in the world — 150 teff grains weigh as much as 1 grain of wheat (or, 7 grains will fit on the head of a pin).

Despite its small size, teff is a nutritional powerhouse composed of 11% protein, 80% complex carbohydrate, and 3% fat that delivers high levels of calcium, phosphorous, iron, copper, aluminum, barium, thiamine, and all of the essential amino acids in easily absorbed forms. Whew! Plus, there is no gluten in this grain, so teff flour is great for those with gluten allergies.

As you can see, there are many wonderful reasons to give this interesting and little-known grain a trial run in your kitchen!

History

Teff is thought to originate in Ethiopia between 4000 and 1000 B.C., although some sources dispute that it may have arrived there previously from the Middle East. Its seeds have been found in the Dassur Pyramid of Egypt and are thought to date to 3359 B.C. Even today, this ancient grain accounts for about one-quarter of the grain production in Ethiopia and it is considered a staple food.

In the United States, the introduction of teff rests on the shoulders of one man, Wayne Carlson. During the 1970′s, while working in Ethiopia to study tropical diseases, he became interested in teff’s nutritional properties. He returned with seeds and in the early 1980s experimented with teff on a farm in western Idaho. Teff grew so well in this area, and there was such a growing domestic demand, that Carlson formed The Teff Company.

Uses & Recipes

Teff is perhaps most famous for its use in making Ethiopian injera flat bread, of which I have absolutely no experience. I searched the internet for the most complete explanation of the process and found this excellent blog entry:

burakaeyae.blogspot.com – Step by Step Injera Instructions

Heather has spent time in Ethiopia and seems to know what she is doing. There are even videos so that dummies like me can understand. Thanks, Heather!

Other ideas for teff can be found on the following pages.

The Teff Company – Recipes (look in the right-side column)

Bob’s Red Mill – Teff Flour (scroll down to “Related Recipes”)

I don’t have a personal photo this week because I was unable to find pure teff grain at a local store. In its place, I found this beautiful photo of a traditional Ethiopian meal. You can see that all of the food is placed on top of the injera flat bread, and pieces of the bread are used to scoop the food — no utensils needed. Thanks to Flickr user LollyKnit for this one.

Our Ethiopian Dish

See you next week!

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Now Playing: Meat Is Murder by The Smiths. It’s a coincidence, I promise!


Ben is a graduate student at NCSU studying Crop Science with an emphasis on Sustainable Agriculture. Official foodie credentials are non-existent, other than the fact that he has been cooking for himself since he was 12 years old. You can find his personal blog at bengarland.com, photos and videos at bengarland’s Flickr photostream, and his plans for a self-constructed cob house and organic farm over at Our Farm Adventure (still a very new work in progress).