Millet Makes a Splash as Gluten-free Golden Grain

Millet, a small-kernel, golden cereal grain widely consumed in Africa and Asia, is growing in popularity among Americans. A growing number of farmers, especially those in Western states, are planting the quick-to-mature, drought-resistant crop, which is grown and harvested much like rice.

Millet, currently eaten by one-third of the world’s population, is said to be one of the first domesticated cereal grains. Its use can be traced back at least 7,000 years.

Jean Hedgier, president of Golden Prairie, a certified organic millet farm in Nunn, Colo., said millet has become well-known in part because it’s gluten-free. The grain appeals to those suffering from celiac disease— an autoimmune disorder that limits one’s tolerance to gluten.

“Individuals who have celiac disease cannot eat products that have wheat in them and that’s about everything,” said Hedgier. “Those with celiac disease are looking for alternative grains to make breads, cakes and all of those things that we like.” Millet can also be prepared in casseroles and stuffing and is sometimes used to brew beer.

What’s more, “Millet is known for being the most nutritious and least allergenic of all the grains,” explained Hedgier. “It is 15 percent protein and high in B complex vitamins.”

Millet is also high in magnesium, which is shown to reduce the severity of asthma attacks, decrease the frequency of migraines and lower high blood pressure. Hedgier said millet has been a great addition to Golden Prairie’s farm operation.

“Since we’re organic farmers we need to have a crop rotation and millet is our spring crop,” she explained. “It hasn’t always been an easy crop to market because it just wasn’t known by a lot of American consumers, but now that it’s been discovered, my business has increased over 200 percent in this last year.

“It has a very mild flavor to it and that’s why it is being recognized as a popular grain,” Hedgier said.