Teff is a fine grain grown mostly in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Discover why people are talking about “the tiny grain with big health benefits” today in our guide to teff.
What is Teff?
Teff is a fine grain purported to offer big health benefits. The grain is about the size of a poppy seed and grows naturally in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Today, however, teff is now being grown around the world. It’s proven to be adaptable even in harsh climates.
Teff is gaining popularity because it’s gluten-free and packed with nutrients. Some people even call it “the Ethiopian superfood”.
The scientific name for teff is Eragrostis tef. It also goes colloquially by a number of other names, including Williams lovegrass, annual bunch grass, and taf.
The word “teff” comes from the Ethio-Semitic language, also known as Amharic. That language has a word called “tff” which means “lost”. The word teff was used to describe the grain because it was so small that it was easily lost. Some even say that teff is the smallest grain in the world.
There’s evidence that teff was one of the earliest grains ever grown by humans. Its usage dates back thousands of years to the ancient civilizations of Abyssinia (modern day Ethiopia). It was a reliable annual crop prized for its nutritional benefits.
Teff is high in dietary fiber, iron, protein, and calcium, making it a nutrient-rich grain.
Many have compared teff to quinoa and millet. The main advantage between teff and these alternative grains is that teff is small, which means it cooks faster and uses less fuel.
Another unique advantage of teff is that it’s gluten-free, which means it can be consumed by celiacs or anyone who eats a gluten-free diet.
Nutrient Profile of Teff
Teff is prized for its nutritional profile. Ethiopians have long known about the nutritional benefits of teff. It wasn’t until recently, however, that other countries started to take note.
In 1996, the United States Research Council said teff was a unique grain with huge potential:
“[Teff has the] potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare.”
Here’s how teff’s nutritional chart looks:
— Serving Size: 193 Grams (1 Cup, Uncooked)
— Calories: 708 (41 Calories From Fat)
— Total Fat: 5 Grams (7% Daily Value), 1 Gram Of Saturated Fat (4% Daily Value)
— Cholesterol: 0%
— Sodium: 23mg (1%)
— Total Carbohydrates: 141 Grams (47%), 15 Grams Of Dietary Fiber (62%)
— Sugars: 4 Grams
— Proteins: 26 Grams
— Calcium: 35%
— Iron: 82%
As you can see, teff has surprisingly high levels of protein, fiber, calcium, and iron. Ethiopians have used it as a staple crop for millennia. Now, the world is starting to notice teff due to its rich nutritional qualities.
Other important nutritional qualities of teff include:
— Significant Levels Of Minerals Like Phosphorus, Magnesium, Iron, Aluminum, Copper, Zinc, Boron, Barium, And Thiamin
— Excellent Amino Acid Composition, Including 8 Essential Amino Acids
— Higher Lysine Levels Than Wheat Or Barley
History of Teff
As mentioned above, teff likely played a critical role in early human civilizations. Some of the first humans that walked the planet can be traced back to Ethiopia over a million years ago. As civilizations developed in the region, teff played a crucial role in their growth and prosperity.
Some historians believe that teff was one of the earliest plants ever domesticated by humans. It’s generally agreed that the people of the Ethiopian highlands were some of the first humans to join the Agricultural Revolution: between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago, people in this region became the first to domesticate plants and animals for food. Teff was an essential part of this domestication.
Teff remained largely unknown outside of Ethiopia for millennia. The grain continued to grow in Ethiopia and Eritrea, where it accounted for about one quarter of total cereal production in both countries.
Today, countries around the world have started to take notice of teff. As gluten-free diets become more popular, people have turned to teff as a good alternative to quinoa and other grains.
How to Use Teff
People use teff in a lot of different ways – which makes sense considering that it has been used by human civilizations for thousands of years. Some of the ways you can use teff include:
— Eat it whole and raw
— Steam, boil, or bake it
— Use it to make grain-based foods, including pancakes, breads, cereals, snack bars, and many other foods
— Use it to make a traditional Ethiopian dish called injera, which is a type of sourdough bread. Most Ethiopian platter-style dishes are served on injera bread.
What Does Teff Taste Like?
Teff looks a lot like poppy seeds. It’s about the same size as a poppy seed. It also has a nutty, grainy taste and texture.
The Huffington Post recently said that teff is good at adding “dimension” to your recipes and cooking. They also said that teff “tastes great”.
How to Grow Teff
Teff is an adaptable plant but it does require some unique growing conditions.
First, teff is considered an alternative forage crop or an “emergency crop”. It’s planted late in the spring when the growing season is warmer, which is when most other crops have already been planted.
It also grows best at certain conditions, including:
— Altitudes Of 1,800 To 2,100m
— Rainfall Of 450 To 550mm During Growing Season
— Temperatures Of 10 Degrees To 27 Degrees Celsius
— 12 Hours Of Daylight (the Plant Is Daylight Sensitive)
— Does Not Survive Frost
One 2004 report from Ethiopia indicated that local farmers preferred white teff over darker colored varieties. Today, you can typically buy teff in either brown or white varieties – just like buying rice.
If those growing conditions sound too strict for you, consider that farmers in India, Australia, Idaho, and Kansas have all been able to successfully grow teff outside of Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Today, these farmers are serving a growing customer base of people who prefer gluten-free grains. Teff has also earned the superfood label from some people, which is sure to raise its popularity in a society constantly looking for “the next superfood”.
How to Buy Teff
One of the strange things about teff is that Ethiopia has a long-standing ban preventing the export of teff grain or flour. That means you cannot buy teff sourced directly from Ethiopia.
That’s okay, because local growers have started to address the rising demand. You can buy teff in Australia, India, and the United States, where it’s currently grown in Idaho and Kansas.
One of the most popular teff companies is called Maskal Teff, found online at TeffCo.com. That company sells two types of teff:
— Maskal Teff Grain
— Maskal Teff Flour
You can buy the grain in brown or ivory colors. Both the flour and grain are priced the same: you can buy a 25 pound bag for $65 or 5 x 1 pound bags for $25. Maskal Teff ships across the United States and is available at a growing number of health food stores and retailers across the nation.
Other teff products have also started to appear online, including Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Teff. That product is sold on Amazon.com for $25.80 for a pack of four 24 ounce packages. The teff is packaged in Milwaukie, Oregon.
Canadians can also purchase teff at Bulk Barn, which sells bulk teff at stores across the country.
Who Should Use Teff?
Teff is a small grain sometimes called “the Ethiopian superfood”. It’s been grown since the beginning of the Agricultural Revolution and has supported healthy human life in the Horn of Africa for millennia.
Today, teff is experiencing a resurgence of popularity due to its gluten-free status and high nutritional content.
As teff becomes more popular, it’s becoming easier to buy it across the United States and other countries. Ethiopia isn’t allowed to export teff on its own, so local growers are addressing the rise in demand by farming in places like Idaho and Kansas.
If you’re looking for a healthy, gluten-free grain that can be used in a similar way to quinoa, then the Ethiopian superfood teff may be the right choice for you.