become popular in both Europe and North America. Many cities (including Washington, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, London, Rome, and Frankfurt, not to mention Tel Aviv) now have restaurants that rely on injera, as well as the convivial communal dining it fosters. And only tef can make authentic injera.3

The new appreciation of tef is also extending into the research community. These days scientists in Ethiopia and a few other countries are beginning to seriously study the plant and its products.

This is all to the good. Tef has much more promise than has been previously thought. It provides a quality food. It grows well under difficult conditions, many of them poorly suited to other cereals. Even in its current state it gives fairly good yields—about the same as wheat under traditional farming in Ethiopia. And it usually produces grain in bad seasons as well as good—an invaluable attribute for poor farmers and of special benefit to locations beset by changeable conditions.

However, along with its advantages tef has serious drawbacks, mainly stemming from its tiny seeds, high demands for labor, lack of development, and difficult cultural practices. All in all, at this stage at least, it is neither easy to grow nor easy to handle.

PROSPECTS

To chart tefs future—both its course and final destination among world cereals—cannot now be done with confidence. This will become clearer as the current research efforts begin producing more results. Nonetheless, there are good reasons for optimism that tef's technical limitations can be overcome and that it can rise to be a specialty crop in a number of nations. It could happen quickly. Indeed, injera is such a fascinating food (half pancake, half pasta) that it has the potential to eventually become well-known worldwide.4

Africa

In Ethiopia, the plant's stable yield under varying conditions, as well as the grain's good storage properties, palatability, and premium prices, will likely make tef ever more attractive.5 However, although

3  

Injera can be made from other grains, but when made from tef it keeps its soft and spongy texture for 3 days; when made from wheat, sorghum, or barley it hardens after only a day. Buckwheat is perhaps the closest substitute.

4  

Something similar is now happening with the tortilla, the round flat bread of Mexico and Central America, which is being sold in supermarkets throughout the United States and is also showing up ever more frequently in other parts of the world. On the open market in Ethiopia, its grain always commands a price substantially above that of other cereals.

5  

On the open market in Ethiopia, its grain always commands a price substantially above that of other cereals.



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