EN on Foods

November 2015 Issue

It’s Teff Time

The folklore. Teff is the world’s tiniest grain, but don’t be fooled by its petite package. This truly ancient grain—teff has been cultivated since between 4,000 and 1,000 B.C.—has thrived in severe climate conditions where other crops fail, including drought, making it the go-to staple of its native Ethiopia. Teff continues to satisfy appetites today as the main ingredient of injera, the sourdough, pancake-like bread that is the foundation of Ethiopian cuisine. The nutrient-rich grass seed is even credited by the country’s renowned long distance runners for their health and energy.

The facts. The only fully domesticated member of lovegrass (Eragrostis), teff (Eragrostis tef) seeds are less than one millimeter in diameter, about the size of a poppy seed, and range in color from white to reddish brown. Too small to process, these grains are always eaten in their whole form, bran and germ intact, giving teff a nutritious advantage. One serving (1/4 cup dry; about Ĺ cup cooked) of this petite grain contains 87 milligrams of calcium (9% DV, Daily Value) and 22% DV of magnesium, which helps transport that calcium throughout the body. That same serving also dishes up 13% DV of protein.

The findings. According to a survey by the Whole Grains Council, just over five percent of Americans have heard of teff and among them only half have tried it. Though there aren’t many teff studies, it has been shown to be an effective, gluten-free grain for celiac patients (Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, March 2008). Selenium deficiencies have been observed in people suffering from celiac disease who are on a gluten-free diet, but teff contains significantly higher amounts of selenium than more common gluten-free cereals like corn and rice (Plant foods for Human Nutrition, June 2015). Another study that appeared in a 2014 issue of Carbohydrate Polymers found that compared to 100 percent wheat flour, teff flour blended with green pea and buckwheat flours had “superior nutritional value,” as well as larger amounts of polyphenols and a lower, slower starch digestibility, which may benefit blood sugar and weight control and colon health.

The finer points. Teff is increasingly available in health food and specialty markets, as well as online. Sold both as flour and whole grain, the whiter-colored grains have a mild nutty flavor, whereas the darker brown hues taste earthier. Store teff the same as any whole grain, in a cool, dark place in a sealed container up to six months, or a year in the freezer. Teff flour slides right into traditional American fare, from pancakes to baked goods and cereal. Tiny teff grains cook quickly in a one to three ratio of teff to water or broth. Steamed, boiled, or baked, teff’s versatility makes it a fun stand-in for other gluten-free whole grains, whether quinoa, millet or rice—adding a nutritious twist to any dish.

—Lori Zanteson

Teff Pancakes

4 eggs
3⁄4 c apple juice or cider
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 1⁄2 c teff flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1⁄2 tsp sea salt

Spray a non-stick skillet or pancake griddle with nonstick cooking spray and heat on medium setting of stove.

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Stir in the juice, oil, maple syrup, and vanilla. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and stir until well combined.

Ladle batter into skillet and cook until golden brown; turn and cook on the other side until golden.

Makes 4 servings

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 438 calories, 14 grams (g) fat, 59 g carbohydrate 9 g protein, 8 g dietary fiber, 316 milligrams sodium.

Recipe adapted courtesy Gluten-Free Recipes for the Conscious Cook by Leslie Cerier.