Know Your Millets

Bajra – The nutritious pearl shaped millet

Bajra or Pearl millet is a grain that is considered a humble man’s staple food, as it is widely consumed in rural India.  Agricultural history has it that pearl millet originated in Africa and was later introduced in India. With many health benefits, it is an excellent grain to have in your diet.

Setting it apart

In the days of the yore, Bajra was cultivated mainly for animal feed and poultry fodder. However, with the reversal of fortunes, today this pearl millet is regarded as a highly nutritious grain which comes with a lot of benefits and health-boosting powers.
It has a fine taste, which is similar to that of brown rice. When cooked, it expands significantly as compared to any other grain.

Sowing and irrigation

The best time for sowing this staple is the beginning of the monsoon. In Tamil Nadu, the rabi season is the most appropriate time for this grain.  For more yield in the summertime, this millet should be sown from last week of January to the 1st week of February. Mainly grown in Rajasthan, this crop needs a hot and dry condition on infertile soil as it has low capacity to hold water.

Generally, just about one to two irrigations are required for bajra. This process increases the crop-growth, improves the quality of grain.

Harvesting

The best stage to harvest pearl millet is when the plants reach full growth or physiological maturity. When the yield develops, the leaves turn yellowish and appear dry,  while the grains become hard and firm. The usual practice of harvesting this crop is cutting the ear-heads first and the stalks later. The stalks (straw) are cut a week later, left to dry and then stacked.

For long-term storage of this millet (more than 5 months), the grain moisture should be less than 11%. All grains less than 13% moisture are considered dry.

Medicinal value

Bajra wild is a rich source of phosphorus, which plays an important role in the formation of body cells, nervous system and bone health. Being a whole-grain food, bajra is believed to help prevent cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and also certain types of cancer. It is also a great source of energy, as it is mainly made of starch, which takes a long time to break down and therefore helps in keeping the weight low.  The staple is easily digestible and also can reduce the risk of stomach ulcers.

It helps prevent the gallstones and lowers the blood pressure, thus lowering the risk of heart attacks. Crammed with proteins, iron, calcium, folic acid, minerals and fat, bajra is a popular option.

Nutritional Facts

One of the reasons why pearl millet is so popular in developing nations is because it is loaded with nutrients.

Nutritionist Tejashree Bobde of Minerva Essence, informs, “Bajra/ sajje is known to possess phytochemicals that lower cholesterol. It also contains folate, magnesium, copper, zinc, and vitamins E and B- complex.  This millet has high energy content as compared to other flours. It is also rich in calcium and unsaturated fats which are good for the body.”

This is a tremendous standpoint for people who cannot afford different types of food for a healthy and balanced meal.  It is rich in proteins, carbohydrates, fibre and is also cholesterol free. The other essential minerals which it has is niacin, thiamine, selenium.  It also contains vitamin B6, A and K, calcium and riboflavin.

Nutrition in 100 grams of Bajra

Calcium

42mg

Protein

11.6gms

Phosphorous

296mg

Magnesium

137gms
Fat

4.2gms

Potassium

307mg
Iron

8.0mg

Carotene

132mcg
Fibre

3.6gms

Source: Wikipedia.org

Bajra Delights

India is the largest producer of pearl millet. In Gujarat, it is called Bajra and is made into a variety of dishes such as, Rotla, Dhebra or Thepla.
In Rajasthan, the delicacy is renowned as Ghaat. It is made from roughly ground bajra, cooked with yogurt and water for hours on a slow flame and tempered with hing and saunf. Bajra raab is yet another nourishing drink from here.
In South India, powdered bajra is mixed with rice batter and fermented with dahi (curd/yoghurt) to make uttapams or even steamed as idlis.
Pearl millet is the main staple in a large region of northern Nigeria, Mali and such other places. It is often ground into flour, rolled into large balls, parboiled, and then consumed as porridge with milk. Sometimes it is prepared as a beverage.
In Namibia, pearl millet is known as ‘mahangu’ and is used to prepare ‘oshifima’ or ‘oshithima’, which is a porridge and also fermented to make a drink called ‘ontaku’ or ‘oshikundu’.

Known for its many health benefits and medicinal qualities, bajra is a popular food. It’s considered a staple as it is easily available, affordable and good for the entire family.

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