Millets- The super crop of our Ancestors.
The history of food, especially in the Indian context, will be left incomplete without giving due importance to millets. As I explore slower and healthier lifestyle of humans, I realise that some of the most beautiful practices have been left behind. And for working towards a better future, we’ll need to reclaim some of these values. Millets provide us an interesting case study.
Millets and the historyMillets are a group of highly variable small-seeded grasses, widely grown around the world as cereal crops or grains for human food and as fodder. There is evidence of the cultivation of millet in the Korean Peninsula dating to the Middle Jeulmun Pottery Period (around 3,500–2,000BC). In India, millets have been mentioned in some of the oldest Yajurveda texts, identifying foxtail millet (priyangava), Barnyard millet (aanava) and black finger millet (shyaamaka), thus indicating that millet consumption was very common, pre-dating to the Indian Bronze Age (4,500BC).
Even until 50 years ago millets was the major grain grown in India. From a staple food and integral part of local food cultures, just like many other things, millets have come to be looked down upon by modern urban consumers as “coarse grains” - something that their village ancestors may have lived on, but that they had left behind and exchanged for a more “refined” diet. Unfortunately, this said refined diet lacks the nutrients critically important for us (food should be as local and wholesome as possible).
Following the western model of development, India and other developing nations have lost out on a lot of useful and meaningful things. Food habits have been one of the biggest changes. We are quickly forgetting our indigenous foods and chasing standardisation. Millets too have been discarded as being too primitive to be used, forgetting the roots.
These changes, coupled with state policies that favour rice and wheat, have led to a sharp decline in millet production and consumption.
Before Green Revolution, millets made up around 40 percent of all cultivated grains (contributing more than wheat and rice). However, since the revolution, the production of rice has increased doubly and wheat production has tripled.
Siri danyalu, Arogyam