Millet is an ancient seed.
First found in Africa and northern China, millet is a staple food for about a third of the planet’s population. But it’s a different story in Canada. Many of us have never heard of millet, and it can easily become fodder for those junk-food-eating friends who like to call your diet “birdseed.” Because, well, it is. Millet is largely what makes up the feed we put in our birdfeeders. (For the record, I am proud to eat birdseed — birds know where it’s at. We’re here freezing and they’ve all flown south.)
Millet functions like a grain and is often confused for one. It’s too hard to eat raw, but cooking it like rice results in a fluffy, grain-like consistency that looks like quinoa’s cute little sister. And, because it’s a seed, not a grain, it’s also gluten-free.
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The awesomeness of millet is abundant
First up, it’s the least allergenic of all grain-like foods. And, unlike many whole grains, millet has a very mild, slightly sweet flavour that won’t over-power your meal. Millet is rich in nutrients, including magnesium, which supports the relaxation of smooth muscles in the body, as well as a full spectrum of B-vitamins that are the fuel to our mitochondria, helping the body produce energy. It’s also loaded with protein, with eight grams per serving. It’s also easy and relatively quick to cook — convenience is always a winning factor.
How to cook millet
As with most grains, it’s optimal to soak millet for two or three hours before cooking to help increase its digestibility. Rinse well and cook in a ratio of one part millet to two parts water. This will give you a soft but loose consistency that’s best for savoury salads, grain bowls and side dishes. With its mild taste, millet is also a delicious option for porridge; cook with a ratio of one part grains to three parts water for about 15 minutes. (For some of Meghan’s most recent breakfast recipes, check out her Caffeine-Free Bevvy, Tofu Scramble or Creamy Avocado Parfait.)
You’ll often find millet in the gluten-free section of your local supermarket or in the bulk section with other grains. Just don’t get the version sold at your pet store; that one is intended for the birds!
Meghan Telpner is a nutritionist and author.