Posts Tagged ‘millets’
The primary motivation to eat cereal grains such as paddy rice, millet rices, or wheat is the nutrition we can derive from these. The largest component, in terms of weight composition of the grain are the carbohydrates in each of these grains. The other nutritional components we can derive from these grains are fibre, minerals and essential fatty acids – to varying degrees depending on the nutritional content of individual grains. In a recent post, I had mentioned about how we can use the carbohydrate to fibre ratio as a fairly good indicator to identify a grain that suits one’s dietary needs.
When a grain is very light, it is not filled with enough carbohydrates in its endosperm – the hard part of the grain. These grains typically do not get dehusked properly during the hulling process. And even when they do, the millet rice kernel tend to shatter resulting in an increase in the grits among the millet rice kernels. These immature grains would also not taste good when eaten primarily due to the ill-formed starch component in the endosperm or the heart of the grain. So the cooking quality deteriorates dramatically even if we are able to process them to rice or rawa form.
The maturity of the oils – the fatty acids in the bran layer in such grains is also very low. This means that the oils go rancid very quickly in such immature grains even if
one is able to get the husk off without damaging the millet rice kernel. And once the oil on a few grains go rancid, it gives the entire package a foul odour and the rancidity spreads to the other mature grains too.
To summarize, removing the immature millet grains from the better formed ones during processing for the millet rice, improves (i) the taste (ii) the cooking quality (iii) shelf life and (iv) the cleanliness of the product. Once separated, the light grains can be used for cattle feed as it is rich in cellulosic material.
Wheat, paddy and most millets have comparable glycemic index. i.e. the total quantity of sugar released in ones blood on eating 100gms of the grain, a direct function of carbohydrate content. Looking at the nutrition chart we can see that the carbohydrate content in all these grains are not too different.
As I had written about earlier in the year, one needs to eat a lesser quantity of millets to feel as full as one would after eating another cereal grain such as polished paddy rice. So the serving size of millet based dishes are smaller and hence the glycemic load is lesser compared to preparations of polished paddy rice or refined flour.
And then there is the whole slow release aspect I had written about and identified how the carbohydrate to fibre ratio is a better indicator of this feature.
To sum up, after eating a millet based meal, the total sugar released into ones blood stream is reduced and the rate of increase initially, and the decrease later, in the blood sugar levels happens at a much more gradual rate when compared what is experienced after eating a meal of polished paddy rice or refined wheat flour.
Both these aspects are very beneficial for those with type 2 diabetes. Please note that diversity is almost always a good thing. It is advisable to include the various millets available in the local markets, unpolished/semi polished paddy rice and whole wheat flour to one’s diet.
In my post a few days ago, I had presented my arguments as to why we should start including millets in our diets. Almost everyone who works on agriculture and food systems recognizes and acknowledges that given the changing climate and rainfall patterns, in the not too distant future, we will not have sufficient paddy rice and wheat to feed the world if we continue down the track we are on. There are quite a few solutions that people are working on to mitigate this impending disaster. And from many perspectives, bringing millets back into our diets as a staple grain is the best way forward. But there are repeated Qs on whether we will have enough grains to feed the world if the whole world started eating millets.
We can answer our primary question by considering the following two Qs:
- what quantity of millet rice needs to be consumed to provide the same nutrition and make a person feel full after eating millets instead of paddy rice?
- on how much land can millets be grown on as compared to paddy?
The first Q has been answered in another recent post I wrote a few months ago on satiety index of millets. So, millet rice(s) adding up to about two thirds the quantity of paddy rice would be sufficient to feed as many people as are surviving on paddy rice.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, dept. of economics and stats, the average yield of paddy is about 2.2 tons / hectare. We do not have similar statistics for millets. But from experience, we can say that at the bare minimum, the average yield for millets is about 800 to a 1000 kgs/hectare. Lets take the more conservative estimate (0.8 tons/hec) and to keep the math simple lets round this ratio to a third.
So taking into account the answer to one and these yield numbers, we end up with needing millets to be cultivated over at least twice the area as paddy is currently being cultivated over.
Even after the many thousands of crores that India has invested in irrigation, the land area on which paddy can be cultivated is less than 20% of the total cultivable area. Given how little millets demand of the soil, finding twice the area under paddy cultivation to cultivate millets on, is very much achievable.
So even with existing technology (seeds, practices, etc.), cultivating millets we can meet the food and nutritional requirements that paddy currently provides. Please note that I am not making the case for replacing paddy completely with millets, either at a food systems or at an individual level. I have considered the extreme situation to state my case.
Once we recognize that bringing back millets on the farms and in our diets is inevitable, a lot of smart minds can and will be brought in to work on millet cultivation and processing. Hopefully the lessons learned from the green revolution will not be forgotten and we shall be smart enough to not fall into the same trap of ‘increase yield at all costs’ approach. Time will tell.
We do have a personal role to play in how this pans out. We must insist on policies that encourage sustainable farming methods and disincentivize chemical and energy intensive unsustainable practices.
The portion of a plant that connects the shoot to the root is commonly referred to as the collar region. An amazing thing can be noticed in most millets.
As the plant grows, the younger tillers push the older tillers further and further away from the central axis of the plant. At each node in their older tillers, new tillers branch out growing skyward. The parent tiller becomes more and more horizontal and its secondary tillers weigh it down further and further bringing it almost parallel to the ground. From each of the older nodes within these tillers, we see secondary roots being pushed into the ground to bring in the good stuff to grow the plant. Essentially, the older nodes in the senior tillers become a secondary collars !
I have seen this in Barnyard, Proso and Browntop millets and given their taxonomy I would expect that Foxtail, Little millets would have a similar behaviour too. While, I suspect that Kodo and Finger millets would be exceptions to this characteristic, I would be more than glad if I am proven wrong !
Millets are amazing. Most people would have seen sorghum and pearl millet in the fields growing to more than 8′ in height, and among traditional varieties, 10′ is totally the norm. Some might have noticed how these amazing plants put secondary roots from their collar nodes to support themselves as they grow.
On reaching reproductive stage, the grain filled panicle at the apex of the plant can easily weigh about 300 gms. So, one can approximate the plant to a cylinder with about 2″ to 3″ diameter and a height of 120″, held at one end, with a 300 gm weight at the free end. So its not really surprising that purely from a physical dynamics perspective they put down secondary roots from not just one, or two but even three nodes as seen in this image below. I am sure I am not alone in seeing the many beautiful math and physics concepts that one can explain, demonstrate and possible experiment with in this amazing natural wonder.
And then there is the physiology of the structures. More on that in a later post.