All-rounder Millets on Rural People’s Plates Since the Sangam Period

photo by Annelie Bernhart

photo by Annelie Bernhart

Millets formed a major part of the food people in rural areas consumed until recently.

In fact, in remote villages of Tamil Nadu, food items made of millets were staple food and rice was consumed occasionally. They had nelluchoru (food made of rice) once in a while during festival periods.

Even now, elderly people attribute their good health to the millets. Over a period of time, the eating habits drastically changed and millets started disappearing from the plates in rural areas.

However, awareness about the importance of millets is now gaining momentum along with the campaign on traditional grains.

The prayer offered to Lord Muruga in Tamil starts with the words Thaenum Thinai Maavum (I offer honey with Thinai flour ie. Foxtail millet) shows how millets were valued by our ancestors. The gruel made of Thinai was the staple food of ancient Tamils and is called kali and koozh. It was consumed even during the Sangam era, evidence of which is available in old Tamil texts. Like Kaikuthal Arisi, the millets are also highly nutritious.

Again in village people call millets as pasithaangi (you will not feel hungry and tired for a considerable amount of time after eating the food items made of millets).

In a way, consuming millet is more advantageous. Compared to rice, especially polished rice, millet releases a lower percentage of glucose and over a longer period of time.

Millets have a greater amount of minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorous, tryphtohan, phosphorus, fibre, B vitamins, anti-oxidants and potassium than rice.

Barnyard Millet (Kuthiravaali in Tamil), Finger Millet (Kelvargu ), Foxtail Millet (Thinai), Kodo Millet (Varagu), Little Millet (Samai), Pearl Millet (Kambu), Proso Millet (Panivaragu) and Sorghum (Cholam) are millet varieties which were largely used in Tamil Nadu’s rural areas.

Whatever can be cooked using rice and wheat, can also be cooked with millet. Millets can replace rice in many of our standard dishes such as idli, dosa and payasam. Millet flour can also be used to make rotis.

To create awareness about the use of millets, the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University is conducting regular one-day courses on how to cook these millets deliciously and make food items quickly.

By T Muruganandham – CHENNAI

The article appeared in The New Indian Express online. To read full story click on link www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/All-rounder-Millets-on-Rural-Peoples-Plates-Since-the-Sangam-Period/2014/02/03/article2034698.ece#.UvDtXPvbXYc

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