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Millet -- more than just birdseed

 
John Elliott
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I came across this interesting video from the FAO website:



Interesting that they claim millet is more nutritious than rice. That would depend, I guess, on what 'millet' you are talking about, for millet is not a botanical designation but an agricultural one: millet is just some grass with large seeds that you can harvest. In some places, as the crop becomes more domesticated and dependable, millet gets another name, like "sorghum". If the stalks are cut and the juice used to make syrup, then it is called sorghum; if you let it go to seed and collect the seed heads to make poultry feed, it is called grain sorghum.

If you want to educate yourself about all the different plants that get lumped in under the classification "millet" the 'Lost Crops of Africa' series from the National Academies Press is a good place to start.

I'm still trying to figure out where millet fits in with my permaculture. I already use browntop millet as part of the seed mixture for my lawn, but the seed is so small that I just use it for birdseed. The chickens certainly seem to like it when their tractor is pulled over a patch of it. Had I known that the rains were going to stop in mid-August and give us a mini-drought until November, I would have sown it instead of jumping the gun on getting my crimson clover sewn around Labor Day. But if this is what we have to look forward to with Climate Change, unpredictable mini-droughts, I think I am going to have to stock up on some different millets to plant at the end of an unusually rainy spell.

What about you? Where does millet fit into your permaculture? And recipes? I like millet cooked in coconut milk for breakfast cereal -- yum!
 
Matu Collins
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I haven't grown millet but I've found that children like to eat it. I toast it dry in the pot until it starts to pop and smell delicious and then add water and salt but coconut milk sounds wonderful.

Cooked millet is a nice gluten free alternative to bread crumbs in meat loaf.
 
Paulo Bessa
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Its easy to grow millet.
Its also one of those things I often buy in health stores and we cook. Its mild flavor and very light to stomach.

Good thing is the crop, is that millets are often adapted to dry and warm climates, with poor soils. Less yielding than corn or wheat, but much less work. Easy harvest too.

This summer I was growing just a sample of pearl, proso, foxtail, japanese and teff millets. Even being in indoors containers, they were easy to grow and harvest. I only harvested for seed-saving purposes, because I started with little amount of seed.

The african finger millet is the only major species I haven't tried. All millet types are totally different species, with notorious differents between the plants, but the seed is similar.
I haven't tried their different flavors yet, and I don't know which type was the store-bought millet.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Leila Rich
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In India we had delicious millet porridge every morning.
It came with the choice of what seemed to be slightly reduced sugar cane syrup, and fiery green chillies.
I have no idea what millet variety it was though.
 
R Scott
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Hmmm. People were growing a locally appropriate grain that provided needed nutrition until the UN and .gov and BIG AG came in and told the poor local yocals what is best for them.

As for millet, milo, sorghum--it is yummy and extremely easy to grow in the right climate AND harvest. Getting the sugar out of the stalks is a bit harder, but can be done with some equipment.

I think every homestead with livestock should be growing some, especially in drier climates.
 
Angelika Maier
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I didn't plant millet so far. It is difficult to get information because you never know to which millet they refer to and they are botanocally very different. I thought too that millet is difficult to thresh and hull, how is this done?
 
John Elliott
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Angelika Maier wrote:I didn't plant millet so far. It is difficult to get information because you never know to which millet they refer to and they are botanocally very different. I thought too that millet is difficult to thresh and hull, how is this done?


Just like in the video -- two women with a big wooden bowl and two smashers. I would imagine it takes a little practice to get the timing just right.

Parakeets seem to do it just fine using just their beaks. They leave a pile of seed hulls under their seed cup.

For small amounts, like what you would harvest by hand, I don't think you can beat the age-old system of flailing it on the ground and then tossing it up in the air to winnow it. Part of the lure of millet is that it is a coarse grain, and even when you cook it a long time, it still has some crunch left to it. I haven't done much with millet flout, mostly because it's not that easy to find. Bob's Red Mill has it, but I can't think of any other sources.
 
Dale Hodgins
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R Scott wrote:Hmmm. People were growing a locally appropriate grain that provided needed nutrition until the UN and .gov and BIG AG came in and told the poor local yocals what is best for them.


While I agree that much of the results of the green revolution needs to be undone or changed, much of the world would not be able to feed itself if we simply rolled back the agricultural development clock to 1950. They had many good crops but had not figured out how to feed the growing hordes. Those crops can certainly be part of the future in densely populated areas but yields must be high to compete with other grains on good land. On marginal lands, millet is often an appropriate crop.

A little history --- Norman Borlaug and company were responsible for greatly improving wheat yields at a time when South Asia was on the brink of catastrophe. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Borlaug

An excerpt --- The initial yields of Borlaug's crops were higher than any ever harvested in South Asia. The countries subsequently committed to importing large quantities of both the Lerma Rojo 64 and Sonora 64 varieties. In 1966, India imported 18,000 tons —the largest purchase and import of any seed in the world at that time. In 1967, Pakistan imported 42,000 tons, and Turkey 21,000 tons. Pakistan's import, planted on 1.5 million acres (6,100 km²), produced enough wheat to seed the entire nation's wheatland the following year.

 
John Elliott
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Dale Hodgins wrote: on good land.



That's the major catch, Dale. As you rightly point out, millet is for the not-so-good land, and the way that conventional, industrial agriculture has degraded a lot of land, millet may be finding a lot more use in the future. Like in places where they used to grow corn with center-pivot irrigation, but now the water table is lower and the droughts more frequent.

And research is still needed to find out how to optimize the different species of millet. There needs to be a second Green Revolution, this time with a lot more species than were optimized the first time around.
 
R Scott
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I have run millet through my standard hand crank flour mill. First try I ran it really loose/coarse so it cracked the hull and then winnowed. Second time I ran it fine and then sifted through a standard flour sifter. Both worked, the sifter was faster for me. It was fairly easy to get it about 80% sifted (about 20% of the grain left with the hulls) which was fine for me as I was giving the waste to the chickens.
 
Angelika Maier
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Thanks that's a good idea. Millet is more for dry lands I think.
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