What’s teff and Why It’s important

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When we think about agriculture innovation, we usually imagine technological developments and using them to create a more sustainable farms and farming communities. This is often the case, but sometimes the answers aren’t modern but ancient in their origin.

One of these cases is the growth of the teff plant. It’s an ancient plant that was grown in Africa for ages. It has become increasingly popular not only in Africa but around the world. This is partly due to the amazing qualities of the plant itself and partly because Africa is now a vital part of the global economy.

What is it?

Teff is a fine grain plant about the size of the poppy seed. It comes in a variety of colors starting from white and going darker to red and dark brown. It was grown in Ethiopia and Eritrea from time immemorial and it’s therefore a key part of the local cuisine there.

It’s mostly grounded into flour and used for baking just like we do with wheat. The flour is used to make variety of breads, pancakes and pastries. These dishes are then seasoned with local spices.


There are countless benefits of this plant for those health and diet of those who use it. In many ways it’s superior to the western plants that are grown with the same goal. For instance, it has more calcium per gram, than any other grain out there. It also benefits weight control and colon health as well as the level of blood sugar.

It’s a gluten free grain which means it can find its ways to the cuisine of many European and Western cultures, and even remove quinoa as the most popular grain amongst those who care about healthy food.

Teff in the US

In a global market this African grain has quickly found its way to the US. It can grow in many parts of the US partly due to their nature climate and partly due to how the climate is change. For instance, it’s now grown in Idaho and in California.

Snake River Region in Idaho is remarkably similar to East African Rift when it comes to both climate and geology. The word about teff being grown in the US first spread across the Ethiopian community active in many US urban centers and then it came to be known among foodies as well.

Global warming

The reasons behind increased interest in teff are complicated and multifaceted. Firstly, it’s a feature of globalization, since there are no more local cultures and everyone gets to experience different customs coming from a different part of the globe in some cases.

Secondly, however, it’s about global warming and how out climate is change. A plant that was once native to Africa could grow in some states right here in the US. That’s a testament as to how much the climate has changed and in this case something good can come if it.

How to use it?

As we said, teff is mostly meant to be used as a grain that’s turned into flour and you could purchase such flour in many places that sell healthy food in the US. However, it could also be used on its own as a spice or added to more traditional western dishes.

Many decide to cook it in porridge by adding water and letting it simmer for ten or so minutes. It’s also a good side dish or can be mixed in a variety of different salads not all of them of African origin.

A recipe idea to think about

-Pre-heat oven at 350°F.
-In a medium-sized pot add teff grain and 3 cups of water. Let this boil for 20 minutes.
-While that’s cooking add chickpeas, broccoli, sweet potatoes, 3 tablespoons avocado oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, the tamari or soy sauce, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, smoked paprika, cumin, garlic granules, oregano, ½ teaspoon salt, and black pepper to a large bowl.
-Mix well and layer on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
-Bake 25 minutes or until sweet potato is fork tender. Remove from oven. When grain is done, remove   from heat and rinse with cold water using a fine strainer since the teff is very small. Set aside.
– In a separate large bowl add the kale, cabbage, remaining 1 tablespoon of avocado oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, and ½ teaspoon salt, Mix/massage for a few minutes. Set aside.
-Check the oven and make sure all veggies/legumes are cooked well. Turn off heat and set aside. Mix cherry tomatoes with the chopped dill and a dash of salt.
-To make the dressing, place all ingredients in a highspeed blender and blend until completely emulsified. The dressing should be smooth and creamy.
-Assemble bowls any way you want dividing ingredients evenly between 4-5 bowls.
– Add the dressing right before serving. Salad can be eaten warm or cold.