In the Indian context, the history of food will be left incomplete without talking about millets. They might be new to some, but they are much wiser and older than any of us. Millets have been with us for hundreds of years now. People across nations have included them in their daily diets due to several health benefits. Millets are widely grown as grains or cereal crops for fodder and human consumption. According to historians, millet was discovered in Southeast Asia during 2000 BC. You can see its mention in some of the Yajur Veda texts. It has been stealing the stage way before wheat and rice because of its low maintenance. Earlier, there were no proper irrigation systems, so millet was the only source of food for many. It is due to its drought-resistant properties. Until 60 years ago, millet was the major whole grain in India. World Area Production ranks millet as the 6th most produced crop.
Calm down! Its Millet Era
The first noodle was made out of millet flour in northwestern China. Today you will see they prepare noodles with wheat.
- The people in the Neolithic era believed that different types of food should be prepared with millet and considered it among the five sacred foods.
- Farmers, during the Roman empire circa, saw millet as a reliable crop, as they could grow it on a small piece of land. Romans needed quick nourishment at that time as they had to fight for their empire.
- During the Stone age, lake dwellers in Switzerland grew millets, and people in northern Europe ate it since the Iron age.
- In Greece, Greek historians saw millets growing so tall, and they enjoyed every bit of it.
People living in the African region have added millets to their daily diet, and it is the most popular carbohydrate there. It is because they face poverty and lack of water throughout the year. Countries such as Nigeria, Uganda, and Ethiopia face the same problems, so they mostly rely on this whole grain. The main reason for this is- Millets do not require much care, and one can easily grow them with fewer facilities. Popular dishes include Hausa Koko, Masa, etc.
Why did they disappear?
Despite having nutritional and other benefits, there was a fall in the consumption of finger millet. Intake of other small millets was also reduced by 83%. The reason behind this decline was that wheat and rice became available to households through the Public Distribution System(PDS).
It happened in 1961-2009 when there was very little consumption of millets in producing regions. There were inadequate investments in development and a lack of knowledge on its use. These are the reasons that led to a decline in its consumption. According to research, there was also a decline in the cultivation of this whole grain. They abolished the land used for cultivating little millet. It happened due to low economic value and less availability of the market.
An endless amount of effort is being shown to increase the demand for this delightful whole grain. People are becoming health conscious and also aware of the fact that maintaining a healthy body is crucial. Many organizations are taking a step forward to talk about how everyone should include millets in their diet. As they are gluten-free, a lot of importance is given to them.
Our Government is bringing them back to fight against socio-economic issues. They are also educating farmers on better techniques for growing millets, and many recipes are floating all over. The minimum support price has been announced by the Agricultural Prices Commission. They have also included it in the food security system.