Teff: History of an Ancient Grain

Teff: History of an Ancient Grain

Teff is native to the Horn of Africa, and one of the earliest domesticated crops, with estimates on its domestication as far back as 4000 B.C. The name teff is thought to come from the Amharic word for ‘lost’ because the seed is easily lost due to its small size. It is one of the most important crops of the Ethiopian and Eritrean people, where it is consumed in the form of injera. Injera is a fermented flatbread that traditionally is made from just teff flour and water.

Teff is traditionally grown in the highlands of Ethiopia. It is sown by hand and is preferred as a crop due to its resilience and drought tolerance. Though farmers have many crops available to them that may yield more than teff, the combination of resilience and nutritional value is something that is highly valued in Ethiopia.

There is a large biodiversity of teff in Ethiopia and Eritrea, due to the diversity of geography and micro-climates in the region. Over thousands of years, farmers have developed varieties that work well in their particular areas and suit their tastes.

Teff is a new crop in the west, though one that may offer solutions to many of the challenges that agriculture may face in the coming years.