Teff, the Ancient Grain of Ethiopia

Ethiopia, a country in East Africa, has mountains, valleys, flatlands and forests. Its geographic diversity makes it a perfect place for many different types of plants to flourish. One of Ethiopia’s most popular plants is teff. Teff is an ancient grass that has been grown for over 6,000 years in Ethiopia. Farmers harvest the seeds of this grass to eat. Teff’s harvested seeds help feed millions of people per year in Ethiopia and across the world.

Teff grows in rainy and dry conditions. This grass can withstand drought because it has a massive shallow root system. Shallow roots absorb moisture from rainfall quickly. But teff is a sturdy plant that even thrives in flooded soils. It also reproduces quickly. These characteristics make it a wonderful plant to cultivate in many different climates.

Once the grass has grown, farmers harvest the teff seeds. A teff seed is smaller than a poppy seed and can be white, brown or red. Teff seeds are incredibly nutritious. The seeds have fiber, lysine, calcium, iron and other important nutrients. Teff is the smallest grain in the world and seeds can easily get lost in the harvesting process. In fact, the name teff most likely comes from the Amharic word “teffa,” meaning “lost.” (Amharic is one of the two main languages spoken in Ethiopia.) Harvesting teff requires lots of time and effort. Once the teff seeds are harvested, they can be turned into flour and other food staples.

One food item made from teff is injera. Injera is a large flatbread made from fermented teff flour and water. Many Ethiopians eat injera with other food items, including “wot,” a stew often made with lentils, meats and spices. Injera has a slightly sour taste that works well as a base for other dishes. To enjoy this dish, people break off a piece of the spongy, thin injera to scoop up the stew or other vegetables. It is easy to make, healthy, and delicious.

Injera is a popular item in Ethiopian homes and restaurants across the world. When you eat injera, you know you are getting a lot of nutrients in every bite, thanks to the teff seed!