Ethiopia is strange to an outsider in many different ways: our calendar has 13 months, and we celebrate New Year in September. Our Amharic alphabet had almost 300 letters, but it is actually very easy to learn. Our food is also “endemic”.
Staple crop of North Ethiopia is teff, which grows best at the altitude from 1,800 to 2,100 m above sea level. The scientific name is eragrostis tef. It is an ancient and intriguing grain, tiny in size yet packed with nutrition. It is higher in protein than wheat and has a high concentration of a wide variety of nutrients, including calcium, thiamin and iron. Historians believe that it was cultivated in Ethiopia six thousand years ago, and speculations that it comes from Egypt are not true.
Teff is native to Ethiopia where it accounts for one quarter of the total cereal production. Recently some attempts have been made to grow teff in North America and Australia.
Some interesting facts about teff:
Teff is one of the smallest grains in the world. The name, “teff” is derived from the Amharic “teffa” which translates as “lost”. Due to its tiny size, teff can easily be lost if dropped!
Teff is also called lovegrass. Eragrostis tef (scientific name of one of teff varieties) is derived from the Greek eros (love) and grostis (grass).
There are several varieties of teff. White teff, nicknamed “sergegna”, or teff for weddings, is more expensive and less sour in taste. Red or brown teff is rich in iron and other minerals. It is getting more popular in recent years.
Teff is used to make home brewed alcohol.
Half a kilo of teff can produce up to 1 ton of grain in as little as 12 weeks.
3000 grains of teff weigh only 1 gram.
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