There’s one little grain we should all say hello to: teff. And while it may be somewhat new to this part of the world, it’s certainly nothing new. Teff is actually an ancient grain native to Ethiopia. It’s the tiniest grain in the world, in fact, but its powers are anything but. Each teensy little kernel provides fiber, protein, iron, calcium and even some vitamin C. And as if that’s not enough reason to fall in love, teff is gluten free by nature. Be still our hearts.
So, of course, everyone here at Kashi just can’t get enough of it. Partly because of its distinct nutty flavor, but mostly because of its rare intrinsic values. Filled with plant based protein that has been sustaining native cultures for centuries, it’s become an important part of our mission to nourish people with wholesome food, right from the earth.
"It's the tiniest grain in the world, in fact, but its powers are anything but."
Excited to know everything we could about teff, we sat down with our teff partner and expert, Ruud (pronounced Rude) Van Klaveren to get the whole scoop on this ancient grain. Ruud supplies us with our teff from South Africa. And, lucky for us, he was happy to fill us in on all the tasty details.
So where did teff get its start?
Teff really is an ancient grain, as it can be traced back more than 6,000 years ago to Africa, where it grows natively. It is the main source of protein for two-thirds of Ethiopians so it’s very important to the Ethiopian culture. They use teff to create a spongy bread called injera. And injera is a foundation of many Ethiopian meals.
6,000 years is a long time. How has teff evolved since then?
It hasn’t, really. And that’s one of the best things about it. Often you’ll find that modern breeding techniques lead to grains that have less nutrients than the originals they were derived from. But not with teff. It’s an honest and genuine grain that really is the same grain that was consumed 6,000 years ago.
What else should we love about it?
There’s lots to love! Teff provides essential nutrients, including B vitamins, iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc, along with some vitamin C, which is rare to find in a grain. And, because teff is so small, it is almost always in whole grain form. Which, of course, we know is a good thing.
OK, so without traveling to Ethiopia, where can we find teff nowadays?
One of the great things about teff is that it can grow where other plants can’t thrive. It’s extremely versatile as far as growing needs. That means that these days, you can find teff growing in places such as the Netherlands and Australia. And as more and more people discover the benefits of this grain, it’s making its way across the world.
Does that mean it will be easy to get our hands on?
Soon enough. Right now, it can often be found in local African specialty stores and some health food stores. As it gains popularity, we’ll likely start to see it turn up in grocery stores.
When we do find it, how can we incorporate teff into our diets?
You can cook teff grains into stews, pilafs or a breakfast porridge. Or you can use teff flour for baking. It’s especially good for gluten-free recipes because it gives them a light texture and nutty flavor.
Great info, Ruud. And (shameless plug) you can also find teff in our newest, native-inspired crackers, hint hint. But no matter how you choose to enjoy it, teff is one little grain that’s definitely worth getting acquainted with.