Ragi- The Wonder Millet
Botanically millets are a group of small seeded cereal grain belonging to the grass family, which are grown all over the world as human food and animal fodder. They are favoured due to their short growing period, drought resistance and high temperature tolerance. The widely grown millets are bajra, jowar, ragi and proso millet. Though millet farming has a history of more than 7000 years their cultivation was quite neglected. But slowly people are getting aware of their benefits and their production is gaining momentum. One of the major whole grain that has made a great comeback is ragi.
Ragi or finger millet is an annual herbaceous plant grown over the semi arid regions of Africa and Asia, which gets matured within 3 to 5 months. In India it is a kharif crop, sown between May and August and harvested between September and January. It is cultivated throughout the year by means of irrigation in some parts of South India. It is also called as kodo millet and extensively grown in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar, Gujarat and Maharashtra and in the hilly regions of Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. What made it famous off late is it’s varied nutritional properties and health benefits.
It is used as a whole grain, so it is has more fiber content along with other essential nutrients that are not lost due to processing. Ragi is a rich source of good carbohydrates and the cereal is gluten-free and highly suitable for those who are gluten or lactose intolerant. Finger millet contains about 60–75% carbohydrates, 6–8% protein and 13–20% dietary fiber. It has the highest amount of calcium (344mg%) and potassium (408mg%) among cereals, so according to dieticians it’s consumption is good for bone health. Finger millet is rich in amino acids such as methionine, tryptophan,valine, threonine and isoleucine. According to nutritionists whole finger millet has lower glycemic response i.e. lower ability to increase blood sugar level, hence it is a great substitute of rice and wheat for diabetic people. Ragi is a very good source of natural iron and its consumption helps in recovery of anemia. It is also preferable to be included in diet for weight loss.
All these beneficial factors are slowly making ragi extremely popular in daily diet of people. Usually in our country ragi used to be eaten as porridge or used in the batter for making dosa and chappatis, but nowadays various value added products are also being encouraged by the government for self help groups. Chips, pasta, cakes, biscuits and cookies made from it are now filling aisles in the supermarkets. This has provided the farmer with the trust that his/her ragi crop will be a profitable endeavour.
Pragnya Paramita, Feature Head, Shyamala Subarna