Ever since humanity’s first domestication of crops, 10,000 years ago and settled agriculture, there has always been an objective to ensure a sufficient supply of carbohydrates via grains. Cereals particularly have been found to be suitable and enduring, due to their high energy reserve and particularly ease of storage. This has resulted on grains being selected and bred to encourage desired characteristics. For example for wheat, cultivars have shifted from tall plants of low grain head to dwarf varieties of high grain head. Presently our demand for superior nutrient content as well as to circumvent dietary restrictions for e.g. gluten-free has meant a quest for alternative grains.
This quest has revived interest in ancient grains, as well as new breeding approaches for existing crops. Ancient grains are used to refer to grains which haven’t had much selection and breeding – at least in the last few hundred years (teff falls in this group).
Should I consume ancient grains?
Well, there is the argument for eating as many different cereals as possible to support one’s diet with as many as possible sources, the mantra being ‘there is goodness in each’. This is particularly supported in Teff’s case for its superior content of calcium, proteins and fiber. Moreover, it is becoming a good alternative cereal for those not able to consume gluten. There is also an argument, which relates to it being of low input (sustainability-wise) and being a resilient crop, capable of growing in marginal lands. There is also a conservation reason to address genetic erosion, as the global reliance on few cereals is considered risky.
Lastly, as the popularity and accessibility to teff is being easier, there is no reason not to enrich our diets with something staple or exotic, wherever one lives. This blog hopefully will share the progress of the science and the many ways it could be used too.