As a vegetarian for the last three years, I have met and tasted many new nutriments during my seeking for plant-based sources of protein. Millet is one I love to use! This is funny as I have known it as the canaries’ diet, like most of you, I believe!
As a matter of fact, it is a seed or cereal full of valuable nutrients and benefits for human health, with great history.
Chinese people were the first to cultivate it, 7500 years ago. It came to Europe from Asia, crossing the Black Sea at 5000 B.C.E. There are references in the Bible about the use of millet in unleavened bread. It was known to Ancient Greeks too, who cultivated it regularly and used it mainly for making bread. Pythagoras proposed it to his students as the ideal food.
Nowadays it is cultivated mostly in India, China, Nigeria, Mali, Ethiopia, West Africa, and Soudan, where it is equal with rice and wheat. In Greece, it used to be grown in the mountainous regions as a rice substitute. It was known as ‘vouri’ around Peloponnesos or ‘bernitsa” around Macedonia. Today it is not cultivated any more in Greece.
This seed is round and small, with a sweet nutty taste, also very digestible and nonallergic. In the market there are varieties of yellow, white, and black millet. In Greece we love its yellow selection. You can find it in the organic stores also in the form of flour for muffins and pancakes and in the form of flakes for your morning porridge or your homemade granola.
Millet is a very good source of plant protein, rich in vitamin B such as niacin (B3), folic acid ( B9), B6, and fiber. It contains iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper, zinc, and phosphorus. It is gluten-free, so it can replace wheat in people’s diets who are allergic or intolerant to it.
It can increase serotonin levels, that is why it relaxes the body and improves the mood.
It is the ideal food for people who suffer from type 2 diabetes, as its fiber helps into a gradual and not rapid increase of sugar levels in the blood. It is ideal for athletes too, who practice intensively, for long-distance runners and cyclists as its magnesium content helps them deal with their muscle cramps.
It is ideal for vegetarians as its fiber makes them feel full and when combined with legumes or raw nuts it offers protein equal with the meat protein.
For every teacup of millet, add two teacups of water and one tbsp olive oil and leave it to boil for 20 minutes. You can use it as a garnish, instead of rice, you can add it to spinach rice, leek rice, stuffed tomatoes in order to increase the nutrition of the meal, you can add it to your homemade bread, to make it more crispy, you can replace the rice in the meatballs egg-lemon soup, you can cook it with your favorite vegetables like couscous as a dinner variation.
I love to add it (2-3 tbsp) into my lentils or chickpeas soup or to have it during my winter mornings as a warm porridge with almond milk, cinnamon, raw nuts and my favourites blueberries, a sweet variation of the usual oat porridge.
Tip: for your morning millet porridge, soak 2-3 tbsp of it into the water, mix it gently with your hand for 5 minutes. Prepare it as your oat porridge, but simmer it for 15 minutes within the plant milk.