July 3, 2019
When Ruchika Bhuwalka’s husband started suffering from back pain, she decided to introduce millet into her family’s diet. Millet is gluten free, rich in fiber, high in antioxidants, and has a low glycemic value, which means that it releases energy slowly and keeps blood sugar levels stable.
Bhuwalka and her family live in Bangalore, India, so the grain was easy to find. Today, Karnataka accounts for 60% of the country’s ragi (finger millet) production. Millet is Karnataka’s fourth biggest crop after mulberry, coffee, and safflower.
Bhuwalka's husband was lucky for yet another reason — in Bangalore, millet is available across a variety of cuisines.
This wasn't always the case. For years, millet, the general name given to a group of 6,000 species of wild grasses found throughout the world, had a bad reputation. It was considered a poor man’s food, affordable and not as luxurious as rice. Dishes like ragi koozh (finger millet porridge) were sold on street sides, and millet was often used as bird feed.
However, millet's health and agricultural benefits have given it new life. Toast & Tonic, a high-end restaurant operated by Chef Manu Chandra, serves a vegetable kibbeh with kodo, fried chicken coated in ragi batter, ragi jowar flour tacos, a bajra salsa, and kodo and foxtail millet salad with barley. “Millets are easy to use and versatile. The challenge is in trying to fit millet into our predictable diets, and make them interesting,” Chandra said.