Ragi to Riches                                          

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Ragi to Riches                                          

Full article by Shabnam Minwalla @BusinessLine PC:ISTOCK.COM

There’s a reason why humble millets are today’s superfood

I first encountered jowar, bajra and ragi when I was around 12 years old. Not on the dinner table, but on the pages of a geography textbook.

We were learning — as all Indian children did in those days, and many still do — about agriculture. We mugged up the fact that “India is an agricultural country” and the nitty-gritty of rabi and kharif. We memorised the top five rice-producing states; and the top five wheat-producing states in India. After which we learnt that maize requires fertile soil and plenty of sunlight.

There’s a reason why humble millets are today’s superfood
I first encountered jowar, bajra and ragi when I was around 12 years old. Not on the dinner table, but on the pages of a geography textbook.

We were learning — as all Indian children did in those days, and many still do — about agriculture. We mugged up the fact that “India is an agricultural country” and the nitty-gritty of rabi and kharif. We memorised the top five rice-producing states; and the top five wheat-producing states in India. After which we learnt that maize requires fertile soil and plenty of sunlight.

Then, just when we thought we were done with Food Crops, we hit a sneaky section at the bottom of the chapter. The paragraph, merely labelled “Others”, was devoted to three grains that few of us had actually consumed (and once we read the textbook, they promptly became the three grains that few of us ever intended to consume).

Bajra, jowar and ragi were snottily dismissed as coarse grains that were “the poor man’s staples”. And this drab description — repeated over the years in Geography and Economics classes through school and college — probably steered generations of middle-class Indians away from these millets.

Blame it on ignorance or on lousy PR. But there was no way that your average Bombayite was going to gobble brown balls of ragi mudde or hearty bajra rotlas while watching Chhaya Geet on Doordarshan. Or slurp a uranium-heavy, lumpy porridge for breakfast before leaping onto the 7.21 Churchgate Fast. Not without the nagging of a bossy granny. Or the interference of a nosy neighbour, determined to disseminate the horrors and healthfulness of ragi porridge.

If I sound irritable, there’s a reason. As someone who had to gulp down that sludgy purple-brown, neighbour-recommended porridge during a six-month-long convalescence, I can vouch for one fact. The things that make you healthy don’t necessarily make you happy; and the things that make you well don’t necessarily star in your food column.

Skills

Posted on

February 13, 2020

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