Friday, November 21, 2008

What is Teff?

Cooking Injera Bread with Teff Flour (With the soaring cost of grain, its very hard to afford this daily staple in Ethiopia.) 100 KG (220 lbs) of Teff Flour will feed a family for 6months.

Tef (Eragrostis tef) is a significant crop in only one country in the world—Ethiopia. There, however, its production exceeds that of most other cereals. Each year, Ethiopian farmers plant almost 1.4 million hectares of tef,1 and they produce 0.9 million tons of grain, or about a quarter of the country's total cereals.2

The grain is especially popular in the western provinces, where people prefer it to all other cereals and eat it once or twice (occasionally three times) every day. In that area, tef contributes about two-thirds of the protein to a typical diet.

Most tef is made into injera, a flat, spongy, and slightly sour bread that looks like a giant bubbly pancake the size of a serving tray. People tear off pieces and use them to scoop up spicy stews that constitute the main meals. For the middle and upper classes it is the preferred staple; for the poor it is a luxury they generally cannot afford.

Unlike many of the species in this book, tef is not in decline. Indeed, farmers have steadily increased their plantings in recent years. The area cultivated rose from less than 40 percent of Ethiopia's total cereal area in 1960 to more than 50 percent in 1980.

Tef is so overwhelmingly important in Ethiopia that its absence elsewhere is a mystery. The plant can certainly be grown in many countries. Some has long been produced for food in Yemen, Kenya (near Marsabit), Malawi, and India, for example. Also, the plant is widely grown as a forage for grazing animals in South Africa and Australia.

Now, however, the use of tef as a cereal for humans is transcending the boundaries of Ethiopia. Commercial production has begun in both the United States and South Africa, and international markets are opening up.