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Millet - An Important Food Crop

Millet - An Important Food Crop

Various kinds of millet are raised as grain crops in drier regions of India and Sri Lanka. Millet is called bajra in northern India and ragi in southern India and follows rice and wheat in importance as a food crop. The main types are bulrush or pearl millet (Pennisetum typhoideum) and finger millet (Eleusine coracana).

Bulrush millet has a cylindrical ear resembling a bulrush. It is an important crop in the driest areas of India and Pakistan. In northern India millet flour is mixed with atta for breads or hulled whole grains are cooked as a pilau. It provides vitamin B, iron, phosphorus and lecithin and is higher in protein than rice, oats and corn.

Finger millet, called kurakkan in the Sinhalese language, is carried on an erect sedge about 1 meter in height. It bears its seeds on 5 spikes which radiate from a central point. It produces round, reddish grains, Commonly cultivated in Sri Lanka, India (especially in Mysore) and Malaysia, where it is called ragi.

The grain is considered a healthy addition to local diets and is purchased in the form of a reddish-brown flour which is mixed with rice flour to make Pittu. When storing with grains and flours which are not in everyday use, it is a good idea to store them in the refrigerator, especially during summer to prevent weevil infestations. Indian grocers usually have a choice of hulled millet grains, millet meal, or a mixture of millet and atta flour. The Western health food store version of millet meal is usually a much coarser grain than that offered at Indian shops and will make a rougher and drier chapati.

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