Ethiopia may soon be known for being the birthplace of the next “superfood” – teff. The first time I heard a non-Ethiopian talk about teff was when my friend last year told me that one of the gluten-free bloggers she followed religiously had written a profile about teff, claiming it was ideal for baking gluten-free brownies.
“It’s a grain found in Ethiopia,” my friend told me, “Have you heard of it before?”
“Have I heard of teff before?!”
Not only had I heard of it, but as an Ethiopian, I had grown up eating it regularly. Teff is the main ingredient in injera, the large, spongy pancakes that make up a large portion of the Ethiopian diet.
The sudden interest of teff by Americans surprised me, but I soon discovered that teff has recently gotten the same attention as other foreign foods that have huge health benefits like the acai berry and, of course, quinoa. Though teff was a regular part of my diet, I had no idea how nutritious the grain was. Here are some of the many benefits of teff:
- It’s high in calcium, fiber, protein, iron, and vitamin C (among other minerals and vitamins).
- It’s low in sodium, fat, and cholesterol.
- It’s gluten-free.
- It has a low glycemic index.
- It’s versatile—can be used for baking, as a thickening agent, or eaten as a porridge.
- It’s a high-yield crop that can grow in a variety of climates, making it a dependable crop.
Until recently, teff was virtually only grown in Ethiopia, though it can also be found in neighboring countries like Eritrea and Djibouti. But now, due to its rising global popularity, companies like Bob’s Red Mill, Love Grain, and Maskal Teff are growing and selling teff or teff products in the US and Europe. Apparently it’s got the perfect flavor and texture for baked goods, in addition to health benefits. Who knew? As teff becomes more popular, well-known chefs and bakers, health gurus, journalists, bloggers, and even celebrities are writing about and experimenting with different recipes that include teff.