Originated in Ethiopia between 4000 BCE and 1000 BCE, teff is described as Ethiopia’s ‘second gift to the world’ after coffee. The word ‘teff’ originates from the Amharic word ‘teffa’ which means ‘lost’ due to the small size of the grain or from the Arabic word ‘tahf’ used by the Semites in South Arabia.
Teff grains are the smallest in the world. A single grain of wheat weighs the same as 150 teff grains!
These fine and tiny grains grow on long, delicate stems of an annual grass in the lovegrass group, the genus Eragrostis. The grains are so small that enough seeds to sow an entire field can easily be held in the hand or in a small bag, making it an extremely portable crop.
The grain comes in three different colours: white, brown or red. The most sought after is the white variety, although the highest iron concentration is in the red grain.
Because they are so small, it is not possible to remove parts of the grain and therefore it loses none of its fibre when processed. Also known as “lovegrass,” teff has a similar nutritional profile to quinoa and millet.
The grain has a very mild, nutty flavor, and it packs a serious nutritional punch. It contains calcium, phosphorus, iron, copper, aluminum, barium and thiamin in high levels. And for lysine levels (an important amino acid) it can beat wheat or barley hands down! It’s low in calories too. Teff does not also contain gluten or sugar.
There are a number of ways to use Teff. In Ethiopia, it is primarily used to bake fermented bread called Injera. Served with most meals, much like naan in India, Enjara is a staple food in Ethiopia. It can also be ground into flour to make an excellent gluten-free flour alternative, and can be used to make pie crusts, cookies, breads, and an assortment of other baked goods.