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What Is Finger Millet?

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  • Written By: B. Turner
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2016
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Finger millet is a grain or cereal product native to parts of Africa. Unlike many other food products, this grain grows well in dry, arid climate zones and high altitudes. It's hearty nature and long-term storage potential make it an important food crop throughout Africa, Asia, and India. In fact, many of these regions store finger millet to help avert famines, or to help families survive through poor growing seasons. Finger millet may also be known as ragi, African millet, or by its technical name of eleusine caracana.

Experts often refer to finger millet as a famine crop due to its ability to remain in storage for as long as five years. Even under primitive storage conditions, this grain is unlikely to suffer damage from pests, mold, or humidity. The plant itself can survive without water for an extended period, and then quickly grow and mature during a brief period of rain in desert climates. It's very hearty and offers high natural resistance to pests and crop diseases.

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While finger millet is rarely eaten in the Americas and Europe, it remains a staple of the African and Asian diets. People in these areas grind the millet to create flour, then mix this flour with water to form cakes or dough. It can also be mixed with milk or other ingredients to form a thick stew or porridge. Some people ferment finger millet to create a type of beer, while others use it to make a flavorful non-alcoholic beverage.

Finger millet grains and parts of the plant itself also serve a number of non-food related needs in developing nations. The millet has long been a part of traditional folk medicine, and may be given to pregnant women during labor. It's also used as a natural diuretic. The grasses and leaves from these plants can be used for animal bedding, or even as materials for constructing huts. Finger millet also serves as a common animal feed in Africa and parts of Asia.

In addition to its heartiness and long-term storage potential, finger millet is also rich in nutrients, making it one of the most important components in many people's diets. It's calorie dense and surprisingly rich in protein for a grain. Finger millet is also easily digestible and full of fiber. It contains important minerals like calcium and iron, and is also one of the few sources of amino acids for people in poor areas of Asia or Africa.

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anon351478
Post 4

Finger millet flour has a sweetness and an earthy taste. it is quite nutritious. I grew eating the porridge every morning. It needs adding another flour to it to have good texture since it tends to be dry on its own. Good luck. The flour can be found online readily.

myharley
Post 3

While it may be hard to find finger millet in a lot of places, it is not impossible. Sometimes you can find it available in Indian stores. If you do, they will usually ship it to you.

I find it too bad that it is so hard to find in most places. Although I have never tasted it or used finger millet flour in any cooking, the benefits of this grain sound wonderful.

Anytime you have a grain with a good amount of protein and fiber is a big plus. I have also heard of people sprouting ragi finger millet, if you are interested in sprouting. The trouble is, you need to find out who is selling it first.

wander
Post 2

@letshearit - I would bet on just making ragi roti bread yourself if you would like to try a bread made out of finger millet. I have been to a few African restaurants and I haven't seen it on the menu, though it is also popular in India so you may want to see if you can find it at an Indian place.

There are lots of recipes online so you can certainly experiment with making the bread at your leisure.

As far as taste goes, it really depends. Some breads made from finger millet contain things like onions and hot peppers so it could be very spicy or mild. Overall, yes it does have a distinct taste from wheat bread.

letshearit
Post 1

It is great to hear that there is such a hearty grain available for those in the poorest countries. I have often wondered about the staple foods of nations in Africa and am curious as to what the flour tastes like made from finger millet. Is it similar to wheat flour or does it have a distinct taste?

I am curious as to where I might be able to find ragi roti (finger millet bread) in America. Do you think I might be able to try it in a restaurant that serves African cuisine or would it be more of something I would have to make myself?

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