Teff is a teeny tiny grain, smaller than a poppy seed yet a giant when it comes to nutritional superiority. Originating in Ethiopia, the homeland of the great Haile Selassie the last Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. A fun fact you might not know – but really should – is that Ras Tafari was Haile Selassie’s birth name and for Rastafarians, he is Jah incarnate – the redeeming messiah. Now what’s this got to do with food Sammy I hear you ask?
Well, back in the year 1992 I hung out with the Rastas on a Caribbean island called Martinique. I lived there for about a month in a little apartment in Fort de France, the capital of the French West Indies. By the way, exports include sugar, rum, tinned fruit, and cacao, so way back then I was surrounded by superfoods! Scuba diving most days, eating French food at nights and, of course dancing to reggae in the backstreet ghettos which were no place for a young white woman.
Don’t give a teff about all that? OK, well howabout this? Teff has around 12% protein and is especially high in calcium, iron, packed full of energy giving B vitamins, and has an estimated 20-30 per cent resistant starch. Now resistant starch is really important as it helps to regulate blood sugar. It is called resistant starch because it travels through your gastrointestinal system without changing or breaking down, making it a great source of fibre which helps to clear debris and impacted waste from your gut. This is a good thing.
Like quinoa, teff is rich in carbohydrate and protein but a predominantly carbohydrate-based grain. It is a complete protein which means it contains all nine essential amino acids, the building blocks of life. While lacking in folate unlike chia, teff contains the powerful fat soluble vitamin K, essential for blood clotting and integrity of bones and other chalky bits that require the binding of calcium. Vitamin K is quite rare in grains, more commonly found in dark green leaves as it is synthesized by plants during photosynthesis.
When the grain is cooking it behaves more like a porridge or polenta in that it can become a bit soupy, so do not over water it. Processed teff flour is milled without losing a valuable husk or outer coating which means it retains its nutrient benefit and is therefore becoming more widely used in pancakes, muffins and breads.