Millet is said to be one of the oldest food crops known to mankind, and perhaps the first grain to be used domestically. For thousands of years now, millets have been cultivated in Asia and Africa as a staple food.  Its history dates back to 2700BC in China and was also documented that the crop was cultivated by the early settlers in Switzerland during the Stone Age. Presently, millet is ranked as the 6th most consumed grain in the universe and sustains about one-third of the world’s population. It is now an important part of diet for Japan, China, India and Africa. Millet is a dominant crop in most of these countries, mainly India and Africa covering about 100 million of cultivated acres.  India is the largest producer in the world, though most of the harvest are used as feeds in poultry and as fodder. Other leading producers of millet in the world include; Nigeria, Mali, China, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Senegal, Chad and Sudan.


Millet Plant                                Millets


Millets prefer warm temperatures for germination and development and are very sensitive to frost. Because of this, planting should be done between May to June in tropical areas. They require a temperature level of 68 and 860F to grow. The foxtail and proso variety also do well in areas with low moisture due to their ability to absolve and retain water for a long time.   Millets soar in well drained loamy soils and are sensitive to extreme drought or water logged soils. The proso millet though, does not tolerate coarse, sandy soils.

There are quite a number of varieties of millet, but the most common and cultivated ones are; Foxtail millet (setaria italica), Pearl millet (pennisetum glaucum), finger millet (Eleusine coracana) and Proso millet (panicum miliaceum).

Millet is a major food source in arid and semiarid regions of the globe, and is present in the traditional cuisine of many others. Millets are usually vital grains used for brewing. In some regions (for instance, in Asia and some West African countries, it is used in brewing millet beer. Millet has a very high nutritional value. It contains a variety of amino acids, vitamins, carbohydrates and fats.  For every 100 grams of millet consumed, there is 3.5 grams of fat and 9.7 grams of protein, which is not less than that of maize, wheat or rice. Additionally, millets contain carotene which is not present in most grains, and contains a larger proportion of vitamin B1 compared to other grains. This means that it is an ideal tonic for patients, elderly and pregnant women.  Millets are rich in potassium, calcium, zinc, iron and B vitamins (especially folic acid, B6 and niacin).  The magnesium content in millet can help reduce the affect of migraines and heart attacks. The cholesterol level in the body can be checked as there is the presence of Niacin (vitamin B3) in millet. The phosphorus content in millet helps with body tissue repair and fat metabolism, and fiber presence is helpful in fighting against breast cancer.


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