This International Year Of Millets, Know Your Millets!

types of millets

Millet is a collective term referring to a number of small-seeded grasses that are cultivated as grain crops. They are tiny in size, rounded in shape, and can be white, grey, yellow or red. They are a stable food in the poorer regions and so have become known as poor man’s cerealThey are highly tolerant to extreme weather conditions such as intense heat, limited rainfall and relatively infertile soil. The crop is favoured due to its productivity and short growing season, they mature in only 3 to 4 months. At its 75th session in March 2021, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2023 the International Year of Millets (IYM 2023). In cooperation with other pertinent stakeholders, FAO is the primary organisation for the Year’s celebration. Let’s make the most out of the International year of millets by knowing the types of millets. 


Nutritional value of Millets

To begin with, let’s throw some light on the nutritional qualities of millets.

  • Gluten-free grain
  • Millets are nutritious compared to the major cereals such as rice and wheat.
  • Rich in dietary fibre, iron, calcium, vitamins, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, copper and manganese.
  • Contain more calories than wheat, probably because of its higher oil content.
  • Nextly, the only grain that retains its alkaline properties after cooking.Pennisetum glaucum (Pearl millet, Bajra) 

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Types of Millets

The purpose of the International year of millets is to highlight the power of millets to remove the problem of hunger on a global level. Different types of millets have tremendous health benefits and nutritional power.

types of millets

  • Eleusine coracana  (Finger millet, Ragi)
  • Setaria italica  (Foxtail millet, Kangni )
  • Panicum millaceum (Proso millet)
  • Echinochloa frumentacea (Barnyard millet)
  • Panicum sumatrense (Little millet)
  • Paspalum scrobiculatum (Kodo millet)

Pearl Millet

Vernacular name: Bajra

Botanical name: Pennisetum glaucum

Family: Poaceae

Part used: Caryopsis

Pearl millet is a native of west tropical Africa, and was taken to East Africa and then to India. India contributes nearly 50% of the World’s production. It is the most important species of millet both in terms of cropped area and contributions to food security in regions of Africa and Asia. It is the most drought-tolerant of all the cereal crops and finds its main agricultural niche in regions too arid to support sorghum or maize. It is an important food as well as a forage crop. The grains can be grounded into very significantly nutritious flour. India is the largest producer of pearl millet in Asia both in terms of the area of about 9 million ha and production of 8.3 million tons. 

Finger Millet

Vernacular name: Ragi

Botanical name: Eleusine coracana

Family: Poaceae

Part used: Caryopsis

Finger millet is of central African origin and it has been under cultivation since ancient times. It is now a stable food in parts of eastern and central Africa as well as in southern India. The small grain which is usually brown but occasionally white can be grounded into flour and made into a thick porridge or can be fermented to produce beer. The unthreshed heads or ears of finger millet can be stored for up to 10 years without undergoing any deterioration. Moreover,  The crop requires a cooler climate than other millets and adequate rainfall. The major producers are Uganda, India, Nepal and China. The major finger millet-growing states in India are Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. 

Foxtail Millet

Vernacular name: Kangni

Botanical name: Setaria italica

Family: Poaceae

Part used: caryopsis

Foxtail millet probably originated in Asia. Now it is widely cultivated in India, Japan and parts of North Africa and southeast Europe. The major foxtail millet-growing states in India are Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Karnataka. These grains are hence used for food, for brewing beer in Russia and are most commonly used as birdseed. It is also grown as a fodder crop in the US.

Proso Millet

Vernacular name: Common millet

Botanical name: Panicum millaceum

Family: Poaceae

Part used: Caryopsis

Proso millet is a native of Central and Eastern Asia and is probably the most ancient of cereals. The grains have been used by the Ancient Chinese as well as the Swiss lake dwellers. It is now grown as a food crop for man and livestock, especially in Russia, China, Japan, India Southern Europe and parts of North America. The inflorescence is a particularly drooping panicle and awnless. The grains are invested in a hard and shining lemma and palea. The grain can be used in much the same way as rice as a porridge or for flour. Proso millet is well adapted to many soil and climatic conditions.

Barnyard Millet

Vernacular name: Barnyard millet

Botanical name: Echinochloa frumentacea

Family: Poaceae

Part used: Caryopsis

It is a decent source of dietary fibre with good levels of soluble and insoluble fractions, and it is a fair supply of highly digested protein. Basically, an ancient millet crop, barnyard millet (Echinochloa species), is grown in particularly warm and temperate regions of the world and is particularly popular in Asia, particularly India, China, Japan, and Korea.

Kodo Millet

Vernacular name: Kodo millet

Botanical name: Paspalum scrobiculatum

Family: Poaceae

Part used: Caryopsis

Kodo millets are suitable for people who are gluten intolerant because they don’t contain gluten. Because it has a higher level of lecithin, which is important for the health of the neurological system, kodo millet is very simple to digest. Postmenopausal women with signs of cardiovascular illness, such as high blood pressure and excessive cholesterol, can benefit greatly from regular use of Kodo millet. It specifically contains particularly more antioxidants, which protect against oxidative stress and keep type 2 diabetes patients’ glucose levels stable. Asthma, migraines, high blood pressure, heart attacks, atherosclerosis, and diabetic heart disease can all be treated with kodo millet. As a food grain, it is grown throughout India, from the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu to the northern states of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, and the eastern state of West Bengal.

Uses of Millets

  • So, millets may be boiled and consumed whole
  • In southeastern Europe, the grains are particularly ground into a meal which is used for making flat, heavy bread or for porridge.
  • Millets may be specifically fermented to make alcoholic beverages.
  • Millets species are non-glutenous and so they are suitable for making bread or leavened loaves.
  • In the west, millets are used principally as animal feed, in particular for poultry, ducks and cattle.
  • Millets have long been cultivated but none has been able to compete with cereals in world commerce, probably because of their small size.

Also check out-Health benefits of Green Tea – My Biology Dictionary

To summarize, millets come in different types and are super packs of nutrition. If we realise the potential of millets this international year of millets, health issues can be reduced to a lot of extents. All these types of millets are one-step solutions for solving global hunger problems.

Keep reading for more on #IYM23!

Team MBD


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