and northern China, for instance. It might also become important to Israel, which has a rising Ethiopian population.8

Some observers see tef as a promising new grain for the United States as well. They point out that it is nutritious enough to be a "health" food and tasty enough to be a gourmet food.9 A company in Idaho already produces it on a commercial scale and supplies markets nationwide (see box). Tef is also being produced on farms in Oklahoma, where it is harvested by machine and sold under contracts from food companies eager to buy it.10 These experiences, limited as they are, are probably laying the groundwork for a mass-produced specialty grain that will remain a part of the American food system.

USES

Tef grain comes in a range of colors from milky white to almost black, but its most popular colors are white, red, and brown. By and large, the darker the color, the richer the flavor. Although blander in taste, the white seeds command the highest prices. However, the red and brown seeds come from plants that are hardier, faster maturing, and easier to grow. In addition, tef aficionados prefer their more robust flavor.

Tef contains no gluten—at least none of the type found in wheat. For this reason, Americans with severe allergies to wheat gluten are among those buying tef these days. Despite the seeming lack of this "rising" protein, injera is a puffy product, somewhere between a flat bread and a raised one.

In Ethiopia, tef flour goes into more than just injera. Some is made into a gruel (muk), some is baked into cakes and a sweet dry unleavened bread (kita), and some is used to prepare homemade beverages. In the United States, it is recommended as a good thickener for soups, stews, and gravies, and, at least according to one promotional pamphlet, "its mild, slightly molasses-like sweetness makes tef easy to include in porridge, pancakes, muffins and biscuits, cookies, cakes, stir fry dishes, casseroles, soups, stews, and puddings."11

As fodder, the tef plant is cheap to raise and quick to produce. Its straw is soft and fast drying. It is both nutritious and extremely palatable to livestock. Its leaf:stem ratio (average 73:27) is high, its

8  

Israel in recent years has been importing tef from the United States, South Africa, and Ethiopia.

9  

"I am using it constantly in my cooking—it makes most wonderful waffles and pancakes, for example," notes botanist Fred Meyer of Washington, D.C.

10  

Information from C.L. Evans.

11  

A recent book, Whole Grain Gourmet, by R. Wood (William Morrow, 1991), includes many up-scale tef recipes.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement