You know you’ve become an ancient grain sophisticate when you can write the following headline: “Teff is the new quinoa.”
Yes, that whimsical pronouncement emerged recently in the blogosphere, confounding average consumers and Google Translate alike. Not since the tiny grain became central to ancient Ethiopian diets has teff been so hot, and so astonishingly cool.
While most grain fashion commentators were stuck on yesterday’s news — buckwheat is the new rhubarb — an Australian food industry Web site spotted the trend early:
“While teff may be the smallest cereal crop ever developed by humankind, don’t let its size fool you,” advises FoodProcessing.com.au. “On average, 1000 teff seeds weigh 0.3 to 0.4 grams — 150 grains of teff weigh as much as one grain of wheat. In fact, its name comes from the Amharic word téf, meaning lost — a reference to its size. But its fibre content is very high compared with other grains — as much as 15.3 grams of fibre per 120 grams of flour.
“It contains many times the amount of calcium, potassium and other essential minerals found in an equal amount of other grains, more lysine than barley, millet and wheat, and is high in protein.
“Bob Reid, co-founder of TasGlobal Seeds, first became interested in teff when his daughter was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. . . . Having planted the seeds, Reid thought he’d never see them again, given their miniscule size. But each seed took and from those original 20 seeds, Reid has selected and re-selected until he’s come up with two strains that he thinks will be most suitable for growing in Tasmania. . . .
“While visiting Denmark last year, Reid noted considerable interest in teff from the athletic community. A number of successful, long-distance runners come from the Ethiopian highlands and have a diet high in teff, so teff is being considered as a potential ingredient in functional foods marketed to sports people.”
Meanwhile, the Boise Weekly’s James Patrick Kelly reports that teff is trending in Idaho. Patches of the grain now surround the effete cultural enclave of Sun Valley:
“In recent years, farmers around the Inland Northwest have become hip to growing ancient grains like teff. Eastern Washington has fields of swaying emmer, farro and spelt. Sorghum has replaced many alfalfa crops in eastern Oregon, and Idaho is one of the leading producers of teff outside of Ethiopia, where grain has been a staple in the eastern part of the African continent since [ancient] times.
“Teff, also known as lovegrass, was first planted in Idaho in 1986, yet it took a few years for farmers to see the potential of growing the grain along the western swath of the Snake River Plain. . . .
“Chef Jered Couch, executive chef at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Nampa and former owner of SixOneSix in Eagle, uses teff on his seasonal menus and occasionally teaches classes about cooking with ancient grains. Couch also touts teff’s culinary versatility.
“‘I like to reduce the grains with veggie stock until it becomes creamy like polenta,’ he said. ‘Teff also works well for making savory little cakes to go with grilled fish and as crepe batter.’
“He added: ‘The story of teff is great. You’re actually eating a food that people ate way back when, prepared almost the same way.’”
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