These little pearls are edible too

by Sanjeev Kapoor

Did you know that the pearl millet, or bajra as it is better known in India, is the most widely grown crop around the world? And it is also an important crop in India and parts of Africa.

However, some new evidence has been found that the Chinese were consuming millet as early as 5900 BCE a fact that was corroborated by the analysis of dog and pig bones which showed that both were fed a millet-rich diet. And there is every likelihood that their human masters too were having a millet-rich diet.

Origins of bajra
Though there is not enough evidence of its exact origin but research says that most likely millet was cultivated simultaneously in Asia and Africa over 7000 years ago. Even in the Old Testament millet is mentioned as a grain for baking bread.

Archaeologists in China found a 4000 year old bowl which contained long noodles that were made from millet. The earliest written record of millet is found in “Fan Shen Chih Shu” written in 2800 BCE which gives detailed instructions for growing and storing the grain.

In Switzerland evidence was found that millet was eaten and grown there as far back as in Stone Age. Millet was introduced to U.S. in 1875 when it was grown and consumed by the early settlers there.

What is bajra
Bajra is a warm season crop that is planted in early summer and starts flowering within two months from planting. The flowers take another thirty days to develop into a mature seed. It gives the best yield on fertile, well drained soils, however it also grows quite well on sandy soils, under acidic soil conditions and when soil moisture and fertility are low.

Bajra is largely grown for grain and for fodder. Over 95% of bajra produced is used as food and the remaining is used as animal and poultry feed. It has a texture much like brown rice and can be cooked just like the rice is cooked. It expands in volume more than any other grain. For example one cup of millet when cooked expands to three cups and turns into fluffy, delicately flavoured cereal that will please many a palate.

Culinary uses
Bajra flour is used extensively all over India to make rotis. It is also used to make biscuits, bread and rolls and gives the baked goods a deliciously crunchy texture. Since it is gluten free, it can be had by those who suffer from gluten allergy. It is one of the least allergenic and most digestible.

It’s nutrient dense too
It is rich in proteins and cholesterol free. It also contains carbohydrates and fiber. The other nutrients found in bajra are thiamine, niacin, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, copper, potassium, iron, chlorine, pantothenic acid, folate, vitamins B6, K and A, riboflavin and calcium.

Health Benefits
Being a whole-grain food, bajra protects against cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and also certain types of cancer. It also protects against stomach ulcers. It is also believed to protect against childhood asthma.

Recommended recipes-

Bajra Rice and Moong Sprout CheelaBajra Atta Halwa, Bajra PongalBajra Methi ki Poori, Bajra DosaBajra aur Kaddu ka Parantha, Bajra Muffin

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.