What is Teff?
Ancient Grain Becomes a Modern Staple!
Teff is a fine grain—about the size of a poppy seed—that comes in a variety of colors, from white and red to dark brown. Teff grows predominantly in Ethiopia and Eritrea, and thrives even in difficult climates. As such, it comprises the staple grain of their cuisines. The grain has a very mild, nutty flavor, and it packs a serious nutritional punch. Teff has an excellent balance of amino acids, and it is also high in protein, calcium, and iron. Ground into flour, teff is used to make the traditional bread, injera: a flat, pancake-like, fermented bread that complements the exotic spices found in the regional food. It can also be ground into flour to make an excellent gluten-free flour alternative, and can be used to make pie crusts, cookies, breads, and an assortment of other baked goods. Teff can also be eaten whole and steamed, boiled, or baked as a side dish or a main course.
Teff’s history traces back thousands of years,to ancient civilizations of Abyssinia, as a reliable support to our early ancestors’ survival. Attracted to its delicious taste, gluten-free composition, and versatility, more consumers are committing to teff. Along with other alternative grains like quinoa and millet, this grain has become well-known in the health foods community because of its great nutritional value.
The Tiny Grain with Big Health Benefits
Teff leads all the grains – by a wide margin – in its calcium content, with a cup of cooked teff offering 123mg, about the same amount of calcium as in a half-cup of cooked spinach. Teff is high in resistant starch, a newly-discovered type of dietary fiber that can benefit blood sugar management, weight control, and colon health. It’s estimated that 20-40% of the carbohydrates in teff are resistant starches. A gluten-free grain with a mild flavor, teff is a healthy and versatile ingredient for many gluten-free products.
Entertaining Teff Trivia
Did you know that…
- Eragrostis tef (or Maskal Teff) borrows its name from Greek, to mean “the grass of love” from eros – love, and agrostis – grass?
- For its survival, teff uses a type of photosynthesis, called Carbon 4, which developed early in the ice ages and allows teff to be most efficient in temperatures as high as those of the human body, as opposed to wheat whose optimal temperature is at 60° F?
- One pound of teff can produce up to one ton of grain in only 12 weeks? This amount is hundreds of times smaller than that required for planting wheat. This productive potential and minimal time and seed requirements have protected the Ethiopians from hunger when their food supply was under attack from numerous invaders in the past.
- Three thousand grains of teff weigh one gram.