Michael Anthony Jerome “Spud” Webb is among the shortest individuals ever to play within the National Basketball Association (NBA). At 5’6”, he shared the court docket with gamers properly over a foot taller than himself, holding his personal for 12 seasons. But, arguably, the defining second of Webb’s profession was his victory within the 1986 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. He defeated his teammate Dominique Wilkins, a 6’eight” participant whose acrobatic dunks earned him the nickname “the Human Highlight Film.”

While we’re with regards to small however mighty, I’d wish to introduce you to the Spud Webb of grains: the traditional superfood often known as teff.

Teff options a formidable dietary profile, main some foodies to anoint it “the new quinoa.” You might have consumed teff in case you’ve ever had injera — a stretchy Ethiopian flatbread that accompanies a wide range of spiced stews and serves as each plate and utensils (spoiler alert: we’re together with a recipe for injera on this article). More and extra gluten-free merchandise, akin to pancake mixes and flours, now comprise teff, too.

Let’s discuss what teff is, why it’s more and more standard all over the world, and the professionals and cons of its fast unfold exterior of its native Africa. Plus, we’ll cowl how one can eat it whereas contemplating and honoring each ethics and sustainability.

What Is Teff?

brown and ivory teff grain

Teff is an extremely essential crop that’s native to Ethiopia. It’s the one fully-domesticated plant of the genus Eragrostis (lovegrass). Because of its poppy-sized seeds, teff usually falls beneath the “small millet” class of grains, which refers to small-seeded grasses that function staple crops all over the world. The title “teff” might have originated from the phrase that means “lost” within the Amharic language as a result of the grains are so tiny — as in “I dropped it, and I will never find it again.” How tiny? Picture a quinoa grain, then shrink it to half its dimension. Then shrink it some extra. Now you’ve received teff.

Like different millets (truly, there’s fierce debate in sure agronomic circles about whether or not teff is a real millet or not; I select to not take sides), teff is a kind of cereal grain and never a pseudocereal (different seed that’s used like a grain) like quinoa or buckwheat. One of the principle variations is that in teff and different cereal grains, starch granules are saved within the endosperm. In pseudocereals, then again, the starch granules are saved in what’s known as the perisperm.

Like quinoa, teff is available in a variety of colours, from darkish reddish-brown to yellow-brown and even ivory. When eaten in Ethiopia, the white or ivory colours are extra extremely valued, in order that they’re usually served to essential company as an indication of wealth. Inhabitants of the poorer rural areas sometimes eat the cheaper, darker-colored teff varieties.

Because teff grains are so small, there are solely a few sensible methods to arrange them: both left of their complete type or floor right into a whole-grain flour. Since bran and germ make up such a big proportion of the grain, it’s all however not possible to create “white teff” by eradicating them (as is completed with white rice and white wheat flour). However you eat them, teff grains supply a gentle, nutty taste. Some individuals say they’ll style undertones of cocoa within the darker varieties (I sense an enormous advertising and marketing alternative).

Teff Nutrition

teff gluten free grain

One of the most important causes you would possibly think about including teff to your repertoire of complete grains is its dietary profile.

Like quinoa, teff is wealthy in protein and amino acids. It’s a very good supply of antioxidants in addition to nutritional vitamins A and C and B nutritional vitamins like niacin. You’ll additionally get an array of minerals from teff, together with copper and manganese. Compared to many different grains, teff is even an excellent supply of calcium. A serving of cooked teff can comprise almost 5 instances the quantity of calcium as a same-sized serving of cooked oatmeal, as an example.

Teff can also be a wealthy supply of fiber, and 20–40% of the carbohydrate content material of teff is resistant starch, which advantages digestive well being. Teff can also be comparatively excessive in protein, so it may be particularly useful for plant-based eaters who should keep away from gluten, nuts, and legumes.

You’ll discover the next vitamins in a three-fourths cup serving of cooked teff:

  • 6.5 grams of protein
  • four grams of fiber
  • 13% of the Daily Value (DV) for thiamin
  • 12% DV for vitamin B6
  • 21% DV for iron
  • 22% DV for magnesium
  • 12% DV for zinc
  • 223% DV for manganese

For extra on the well being advantages of consuming complete grains, together with teff, see this text.

A Gluten-Free Grain

Because teff is of course gluten-free, it usually seems within the preparation of gluten-free meals and recipes.

Calcium, magnesium, and iron are minerals which are usually poor in processed gluten-free merchandise. Since teff has excessive ranges of those minerals, plus others, it may be an excellent addition to gluten-free diets. Teff additionally retains its excessive fiber content material even when processed into flour. One ounce of teff flour incorporates round 5 grams of fiber, whereas the identical quantity of all-purpose (white) wheat flour solely has one gram.

Teff is a extremely valued grain for individuals with celiac illness, in addition to anybody wishing to eat gluten-free both out of choice or an intolerance. And particularly in locations the place starvation and malnutrition are an issue, teff generally is a life-saving resolution, offering a wealthy supply of nutritional vitamins, minerals, and protein.

Teff’s Importance to Ethiopia and Eritrea

African woman using a handmade strainer to prepare the flour

Teff is an historical grain, like farro, quinoa, spelt, amaranth, and millet. By historical, I imply that the fashionable varieties of those crops are genetically similar to these grown 1000’s of years in the past. Teff is native to Ethiopia and should have originated someday round 4000–1000 B.C.E. Ethiopia is now residence to almost four,000 varieties (or cultivars) of teff.

In Ethiopian delicacies, teff generally will get utilized in conventional meals and drinks. Some of those embrace porridge, conventional alcoholic drinks like tella and katikala, and injera (a skinny, fermented, pancake-like bread usually served with a spiced stew made with meat or pulses, known as “wot”).

Teff performs a significant position in meals safety, vitamin, and revenue technology for smallholder farmers in Ethiopia. Many Ethiopians and Eritreans (residents of Eritrea, the nation simply north of Ethiopia) eat it each day — generally 3 times a day — in nearly all areas and tribes. The Whole Grains Council estimates that Ethiopians get about two-thirds of their dietary protein from teff.

Economically, the teff crop is a supply of livelihood for almost 43% of all of the nation’s farmers, most of whom are economically poor.

Teff can also be an essential supply of vitamin for East African athletes. In specific, injera is a significant supply of vitality for elite Ethiopian distance runners. It’s broadly believed that the iron in teff might assist offset iron losses that may happen from the fragility of hemoglobin-carrying purple blood cells that’s widespread amongst these athletes. Elite athletes usually regard teff as a “super-grain” due to its excessive mineral content material.

Teff and Biopiracy

The time period “biopiracy” refers to unethical business exploitation of native organic supplies (like vegetation) with out offering honest monetary compensation to residents of the nation of origin. Unfortunately, there’s a major biopiracy concern round Ethiopian teff.

A Dutch firm holds a patent on processed teff flour. And in some European nations, no teff flour might be bought with out the fee of royalties to the Netherlands. How did this occur? Apparently, the corporate in query was conducting analysis on teff alongside Ethiopia, which concerned sharing the genetic data wanted for business use and enlargement.

In 2004, nonetheless, the Dutch firm filed a patent by itself and was granted a monopoly on many European teff merchandise by the European Patent Office. The loophole that allowed for this was the truth that know-how turns teff grains into teff flour, which makes it a patentable invention. (As a facet observe, this opens up an even bigger can of worms, as issues like DNA sequencing and different applied sciences are getting used to “process” native vegetation and strip the nations of origin of the monetary rights related to the business use of those vegetation). At the top of the day, teff is an Ethiopian staple meals — and has been for hundreds of years. And ethically, evidently’s the place any teff-related patent rights ought to keep.

Under this specific patent, Ethiopian teff wasn’t even allowed in sure European nations. That ruling has since been overturned within the Netherlands, however nonetheless holds in a couple of European nations. As a consequence, the Dutch teff patent has stripped thousands and thousands of Ethiopian farmers of their rights. From 2006–2015 there was a ban on exporting teff out of Ethiopia for comprehensible worry of extra biopiracy.

The Ethiopian authorities additionally wished to be sure that there was a enough teff provide for its personal home market. There have been considerations that if it relinquished management, teff would possibly endure the identical destiny as South American quinoa, which has been reworked from a staple to a money crop. Government leaders additionally didn’t need native populations to should compete with rich foreigners, a market that threatened to boost costs and render teff unaffordable to the individuals who have subsisted on it for numerous generations.

Is Teff an Ethical Crop?


Currently, over 90% of the world’s teff is grown in Ethiopia, however curiosity in (and demand for) the grain is spreading globally. In response, Ethiopia is permitting the export of milled and processed teff, however solely these crops grown on 48 chosen farms protecting simply 6,000 hectares. Aside from conserving most domestically-grown teff for the Ethiopian individuals, Ethiopia additionally doesn’t have the infrastructure in place proper now to increase its exports to fulfill rising demand. In truth, a lot of the grain grown there’s harvested by hand.

With its rising recognition, teff can also be being grown in different nations, although, together with the US, South Africa, Argentina, Spain, Ukraine, and Israel.

Since Ethiopia exports so little teff, a lot of US demand is now being stuffed by home corporations, together with The Teff Company, based by Wayne Carlson. Carlson introduced the grain again to the US with him after touring to Ethiopia within the 1970s. Since then, he has satisfied farmers in Idaho, Oregon, and Nevada to develop teff for his firm. Many of his clients are individuals of the Ethiopian and Eritrean diasporas within the US, who need a supply of teff that enables them to make acquainted, conventional meals.

For now, if yow will discover teff exported from Ethiopia, that’s a stunning solution to immediately help the farmers who develop it — a lot of whom are extraordinarily poor. For a decrease carbon footprint (and decrease costs, usually), you may as well choose to help domestically-grown teff. Look for natural, in case you can, to make sure decrease pesticide residues and extra sustainable agricultural practices.

Is It Sustainable?

teff the cereal of Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, a lot of the teff crop is produced by smallholder farms. Even when it’s grown as a monoculture, the dimensions of every plantation is often fairly restricted, which implies that habitats and biodiversity can proceed thriving in surrounding areas.

Teff additionally performs an essential position in sustainable agriculture, because of its capability to develop in unpredictable climates and difficult circumstances. For instance, teff grows pretty properly with restricted quantities of rain, bounces again after drought, and grows to maturity quick after first rate rainfall.

It is typically used as a “rescue” or emergency crop, changing one other crop in the midst of the season when the unique crop didn’t develop. Teff can also be used as a “catch crop” as a result of it may be grown shortly in soil that might in any other case go unused for some time period, sustaining soil construction and stopping erosion within the meantime.

Teff is a reasonably low shopper of water, which is useful in locations like California, the place persistent water shortages threaten many agricultural practices. The tiny grains additionally cook dinner shortly, which cuts down on the quantity of gasoline required to arrange them.

Since little or no teff is exported from Ethiopia, it usually has a smaller carbon footprint than different grains since you’re extra more likely to discover it grown nearer to residence (you possibly can determine the place your teff product got here from by discovering the nation of origin label on the packaging).

Where Can You Buy Teff?

You might be able to discover teff flour within the baking aisle of pure meals shops, in addition to some specialty meals shops. You may additionally discover teff merchandise within the cereal/breakfast aisle, or teff as an ingredient in chips, crackers, and different merchandise within the snack aisle.

Sold as a grain, search for teff with the opposite grains; you’re way more more likely to see it in a pure meals retailer or African market than an everyday grocery retailer. You also can buy complete teff, teff merchandise, and teff flour on-line from various retailers.

If you’re lucky to have any close by, you would possibly wish to patronize Ethiopian eating places to style genuine teff dishes and help the Ethiopian diaspora.

Additionally, some manufacturers that supply teff immediately from Ethiopia and help the farmers there embrace the next:

  • Berhan sells each complete grain teff and teff flour, in brown and ivory varieties. It was based by an Ethiopian-Canadian household with the mission of rediscovering teff, honoring their ancestors, and sharing the advantages and makes use of of the grain with extra of the world.
  • Ethio Organics sells teff-based vegan pancake mixes. These embrace combos of teff with oat flour, flaxseed, and almond flour, in addition to a 100% teff combine. This firm was based by three feminine associates who have been born and raised in Ethiopia and now stay in Canada. They’re dedicated to fair-trade practices and work in partnership with girls who’re small enterprise homeowners in Ethiopia, significantly these scuffling with monetary hardships.
  • Wild For makes teff chips with the purpose of constructing the teff chip market within the US. They have two missions: to attach African teff farmers to worldwide markets and to make healthful tasty meals to nourish customers. Their teff chips are available in tasty flavors like Sea Salt and Sweet & Smokey BBQ, they usually’re vegan, Non-GMO Project Verified, and kosher.

Of course, in case you like, you may as well discover all kinds of teff merchandise (most of them grown within the US) on the market at comparatively low costs on Amazon.

How to Prepare and Use Teff

teff flour close-up

Teff might be ready like a complete grain. And teff flour can be utilized to make a wide range of baked items at residence. Before cooking teff, rinse it totally. Since the grains are so tiny, line a colander or sieve with cheesecloth or a tea towel to be sure to don’t lose grains down the sink.

Teff can be utilized to make issues like porridge and breakfast bowls, breads, injera and pancakes, savory grain dishes, and stews.

To cook dinner teff as a complete grain, two of one of the best strategies are to arrange it as a savory pilaf or as a breakfast cereal. To make a pilaf, add one cup of teff to one-and-a-half cups of boiling salted water, scale back to a simmer, and cook dinner lined for eight–10 minutes till the water is absorbed. Similar to creating couscous or rice, you possibly can then take away it from the warmth, let it sit within the lined pan for about 10 extra minutes, then fluff it gently with a fork. To get pleasure from teff as a porridgy cereal, add a cup of grains to 4 cups of boiling salted water, then cowl and simmer for 15–20 minutes, stirring often.

If you wish to bake with teff flour, it really works properly as an addition to wheat flour. If you exchange a couple of quarter of the wheat flour in a recipe with teff, you’ll find yourself with a scrumptious and comparatively gentle consequence (whereas additionally including further vitamin). The extra teff you employ, the denser your baked creation might be.

Making injera — the Ethiopian flatbread talked about earlier — entails an extended course of than merely baking with the flour. A combination of flour, heat water, and salt wants to sit down and ferment for as much as 48 hours. After that, the batter cooks very similar to a pancake, besides thinner, spongier, and stretchier. (Nope, this wasn’t the recipe — that’s nonetheless to come back).

Teff Recipes

If you’re keen on a heat and soothing breakfast, you then’ll wish to soar straight into this Apple Cinnamon Teff Porridge, which is of course candy, tremendous nourishing, and really comforting. Swap out that oatmeal for teff, and tell us your ideas! Indulge in conventional Ethiopian fare while you make this fragrant Misir Wot and scoop it up with spongy Homemade Injera. Plus, now we have a bonus recipe for you! We couldn’t resist sharing a Sweet ‘n Nutty Teff Bread made with teff flour and oats. Teff lends its naturally nutty and candy flavors, making this bread scrumptious with nut butter and home made fruit preserves. Yum!

1. Apple Cinnamon Teff Porridge

If a heat, comforting cereal is your breakfast jam and also you haven’t but tried teff, then we extremely advocate giving this Apple Cinnamon Teff Porridge a go. Teff is of course candy and nutty by itself, so that you don’t want a lot in the way in which of added sweetness to make this porridge scrumptious. Add apples, cinnamon, dates, and walnuts for extra naturally candy and nutty flavors. And, in case you’d prefer it a bit extra candy, only a contact of maple will do.

2. Misir Wot

Misir wot (additionally spelled wat) is a conventional Ethiopian stew crammed with lentils, greens, and layers of aromatic spices. Its fragrant spice mix, berbere, usually contains greater than ten spices akin to coriander, cumin, fenugreek, chili powder, and paprika. Enjoy this flavorful stew with conventional injera (or, in case you want, on a mattress of brown rice).

three. Homemade Injera

Injera, a fermented flatbread with a delightfully bitter taste and spongy texture, is historically made with teff flour. In Ethiopia and Eritrea, injera is a staple meals, usually loved with stews and used as each the plate and cutlery. It’s easy to arrange, however it’s good to have a bit of persistence whilst you look ahead to it to ferment at room temperature for 2 days. Trust us, it’s well worth the wait!

four. Sweet ‘n Nutty Teff Bread

If you’re on the lookout for a moist, dense, gluten-free bread with a bit of little bit of nuttiness and a contact of sweetness, you’ve discovered it right here. Teff is an excellent, nutrient-rich substitute for conventional flour. Gluten-free oats give this bread some further texture, whereas the nuts add a bit of crunch. What’s extra, this bread is admittedly easy to make!

Teff Is Terrific — With Considerations

Teff is a extremely nutritious gluten-free grain that may profit individuals with or with out celiac illness. It’s an essential grain in Ethiopia and Eritrea, the place farmers depend on it for his or her livelihoods, and most of the people depend on it closely for vitamin. It’s a comparatively sustainable crop that may develop shortly, and that’s pretty drought-tolerant. Although teff is reaching different nations just like the US, it’s nonetheless a extremely protected meals in Ethiopia, and for good motive. Overall, it’s greatest to get pleasure from teff that’s both sourced immediately from its nation of origin (to assist help farmers there) or sourced from a home grower if potential. While it most likely gained’t show you how to win any slam dunk competitions, you possibly can nonetheless attain nice dietary heights with teff in your staff.

Tell us within the feedback:

  • Have you ever tried teff (or a teff product)? What did you employ it for?
  • What are some methods you could possibly use teff flour in your kitchen?
  • Do you’ve got different favourite historical grains?

Feature Image: iStock.com/Marilyna

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