The great Indian grain trail
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The great Indian grain trail

When the UN declared 2013 as the International Year Of Quinoa, this humble grain was pushed into the limelight. We look at some Indian seeds that are gaining ground

india Updated: Aug 27, 2013 16:27 IST
Sumedha Deo
Sumedha Deo
Hindustan Times

From the times of the Incas, Indigenous people living near the Andes in South America would grow and cook a grain that they called, magic seed. Loaded with essential amino acids, which the human body doesn’t produce, mono- and polyunsaturated fats, fibre, iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamins B, C and E, the superfood quinoa was celebrated by the United Nations, which declared 2013 as the Year Of The Quinoa.

India is also home to many such little-known grains that pack a nutritional punch. We look at four future superstars and tell you how you can include them in your diet.

Aka: Red finger millet, nachni
Why it’s a superhero: Ragi doesn’t need too many efforts to cultivate: you could just scatter some seeds and, without any tilling or tending, the grain will grow in a few weeks. It is very high in iron, calcium and fibre and is a good source of the amino acid tryptophan which helps suppress the appetite and keeps you full for longer.
Eat this: Ragi is a versatile grain and can be added to regular flour to make rotis, dosas or pancakes. It can be baked into cookies or muffins as well. A simple ragi porridge made with sugar and milk serves as excellent baby food.

Nachni dosa


1/2 onion n 2-3 green chillies

3 tbsp nachni flour

Handful of coriander leaves

2 cups buttermilk


Salt to taste

Finely chop the onion and green chilli. Add to nachni flour, with salt and finely chopped coriander. Add buttermilk to flour till a thin consistency is reached. Add 1/2 tsp oil to pan and spread batter evenly. Cook it covered. Flip the dosa and cook uncovered. Serve hot with green chutney.

Aka: Pearl millet
Why it’s a superhero: This grain requires so little irrigation that it is commonly grown in drought-prone regions. And even though it doesn’t require tending, it provides so many nutritional benefits. It is a rich source of protein, fibre, B-complex vitamins, iron, phosphorus and potassium.
Eat this: Bajra is popularly eaten as a bhakri. It can also be made into a savoury porridge and tempered with a ghee or peppery oil topping as it can get dry on its own.

Bajra chivda
2 cups bajra flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp asafoetida (hing)
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp chilli powder
2 finely chopped green chillies
3-4 curry leaves
1/2 onion chopped
1/2 tsp sanchal (rock salt) powder
1/2 tsp chaat masala
Knead a dough of bajra and bake two bhakris. Cool them completely. Crumble bhakris coarsly. Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan and add mustard seeds, jeera and hing. When mustard seeds splutter, add finely chopped green chilli, curry leaves and chopped onion. Fry till slightly brown. Add bhakri crumble and sprinkle water over it. Add salt, chilli, turmeric powder, rock salt and chaat masala and mix well. Cover with a lid and cook for some time. Garnish with coriander.

Aka: Sorghum
Why it’s a superhero: The starch content in jowar is comparable to that of wheat, but it requires much less effort to cultivate. It is rich in iron, phosphorus, calcium and B-complex vitamins. It is low in fats and contains a good amount of digestible protein.
Eat this: Jowar bhakris are part of many traditional Indian meals, especially in Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Jowar upma
1/2 cup jowar
1 cup chopped mixed vegetables
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
a pinch of asafoetida (hing)
1 tsp oil
salt to taste
2 tbsp chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp chopped onions
2 tsp chopped coriander
Grind the jowar to a coarse powder in a blender. Combine ground jowar and salt with 3 cups of water and pressure cook for 3-4 whistles or till it is cooked. Heat oil in a non-stick pan and add mustard seeds and asafoetida. When the seeds crackle, add vegetables and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the cooked jowar mixture with 1/2 cups of water and simmer for 7 to 8 minutes. Top with the tomato, onion and coriander.

Aka: Amaranth grain
Why it’s a superhero: This grain has been cultivated for over 8,000 years in India. It is a great source of protein, and contains many essential amino acids. In addition to that, it is high in fibre and packs minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese in good amounts.
Eat this: Rajgira is eaten as fasting food, most popularly in the form of chikki, kheer, sheera and halwa. The flour is added to others to make thalipeeth, a type of stuffed pancake.

Rajgira Paneer Paratha
1 cup coarsely grated fresh paneer
2 tsp finely chopped green chillies
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp finely chopped coriander
rock salt to taste
1 1/2 cup rajgira flour
1/4 cup boiled, peeled and mashed potatoes
1/2 tsp black pepper
oil for cooking
Divide stuffing into six equal portions and keep aside. Combine rajgira flour, potatoes, pepper and rock salt in a bowl and knead into a semi-soft dough using enough water. Divide dough into six equal portions and roll out a portion into a 75 mm (3”) diameter circle, using a little rajgira flour for rolling. Place a portion of stuffing in the centre of the circle, bring the edges to the centre and seal tightly. Roll out again into a 6” diameter circle, using a little rajgira flour for rolling. Heat a non-stick tava and cook the paratha, using a little oil, till it turns golden brown in colour from both the sides. Repeat with the remaining dough and stuffing to make five more parathas. Serve hot with green chutney and fresh curd.

Recipes by Mitalee Doshi, founder and wellness expert at and nutritional values by Rakhi Chitnis, nutritionist and dietitian, and Rohini Khanna, dietitian.

First Published: Aug 27, 2013 13:44 IST