Millet (Panicum miliaceum, L.) is a herbaceous annual plant belonging to the Poacee family (or Graminaceae). The millet, while being the oldest cereal in the history of human nutrition, falls into the grouping of smaller cereals.
Systematically the millet belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Kingdom Plantae, Magnoliophyta Division, Liliopsida Class, Poales Order, Poaceae Family, Subfamily Panicoideae and then Genera Panicum and Species P. miliaceum.
The generic term comes from pánus cobwebs or millet ear; As far as the specific name is concerned, it does not have a clear etymology, as is often the case with the names of some plants. In the southern Italian regions, the millet is usually indicated with the picturesque vernacular vocabulary of “Vulpicoca” (Vulp’ococ). The etymological root of the dialectical name is due to the inflorescence characteristics comparable to the shape of the fox tail.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
According to the various assumptions, the species would originate in the Middle East or Central Asia, or the most accredited one, of India. It is established that millennial cultivation dates back to prehistoric times: in Italy it was found in Neolithic tombs.
The cultivation area is therefore also that of other cereals such as wheat.
Cultivated since prehistoric times, it is a cosmopolitan species whose origin is somewhat uncertain. From the region of origin the species spread throughout the Old Continent and then on other continents. It is still cultivated in different regions of Asia and Africa, while cultivation in Western countries is sporadic and marginal. It is naturalized on uncultivated land. It’s a thermophile and xerophilous species. Particularly demanding with regard to temperatures, in temperate vegetation regions with spring-summer cycle. It has a strong resistance to drought and does not show particular soil needs, so it is suitable for cultivation in arid or semi-desert areas and on poor soils.
The plant has a crawling bearing, with numerous lobed holes at its base, robust, of varying height from 50 cm to 150 cm, sometimes branched up.
The leaves of the millet are linear-lanceolate, sheathing, with a broad foil up to 1 cm and pubescent on both sides. The ligula is hairy.
The flowers gathered in end cuttings in inflorescence, 15-20 cm long, often hanging on one side. Each cob is composed of spatula racemes. The spighette, about 4 mm long, consists of two short glories of 1-2 mm and two flowers. Each flower is enclosed by two upper glumes (lemma and paleas), about 3 mm long, and includes an androchean of three stamens and a gynecologist with bifido and feathered sting.
The fruit of the Panicum miliaceum is an elliptical, glossy, white-colored carioxide or variable from gray to brown to black. The weight of 1000 carioxides is 5-7 grams.
The millet has a relatively short cycle of cultivation (about 3-4 months) and is characterized by a prolonged and remarkable grafting capacity. It is resistant to drought and high temperatures, but is sensitive to cold and water stagnation. The Panicum miliaceum being a tropical plant fears cold and excessive moisture, while it resists very well to drought. For its particular biological characteristics this species is usually used as intercalary culture in light and sandy soils, with little moisture throughout the summer period.
Given its thermal needs, slightly higher than those of corn, millet is cultivated in temperate, spring-summer cycles. Sowing is carried out from the advanced spring (late April). Since it has a relatively short production cycle (2-3 months), this cereal lends itself to second-seed harvested in the summer, after harvesting a cereal or a spring-autumn herb.
Cultivation is carried out according to the same criteria as sorghum, such as grain or forage crops, employing 5-15 kg seed in the first case, in the second case 30-40 kg. Sowing can be done with a row seed drill. For fertilization normally a phosphoazotate fertilizer or a ternary with optimum ratio of 1: 1.2: 1 between phosphorus and potassium nitrogen is used. However, this practice is highly energized and should be revised with leguminous rotation techniques (which will provide nitrogen for its subsequent cultivation and availability of organic substance in farms with a balanced livestock / soil ratio (UBA). Irrigation can be carried out with interventions Of rescue.
As grain cereal the millet should be harvested before the final ripening as maturation is scalar and the cob is easily soured. Therefore, it must be pruned and threshed after thorough drying. The yields are in the order of 1-2 tonnes per hectare.
As forage cereal crops should be harvested at the beginning of the pruning if used as green fodder or waxy maturation if it is intended for squeezing. The green mass production is in the order of 15-25 t / ha.
Uses and Traditions –
Millet is the oldest cereal in the history of human nutrition. It was already consumed in prehistoric times when it was harvested in the wild. Appreciated by the Sumerians, it was then cultivated by Egyptians and Romans, who appreciated their nutritional virtues and long conservability.
According to the various hypotheses, as it is said, the species would originate in the Middle East or Central Asia, or the most accredited, of India. It is established that millennial cultivation dates back to prehistoric times: in Italy it was found in Neolithic tombs.
The Panicum miliaceum, largely used for human consumption at the time of the Romans, reached its peak in the first Middle Ages, during which it was considered an excellent substitute for meat during the periods of abstinence prescribed by the Church, subsequently began a slow decline because it replaced From other more productive cereals.
Characterized by a long shelf life, it is thanks to this grain stored in the city’s warehouses that Venice, besieged by the Genoese in 1378, saved from starvation.
For centuries millet polenta was a typical dish of northern Italy, particularly in Veneto, Lombardy and Trentino. Three millet plants appear in the municipal coat of arms of Miagliano, a small center in the province of Biella. A bunch of millet also appears in the coat of arms of the municipality of Miglianico (named after it) in the province of Chieti.
The millet usually appeared on the tables of our ancestors and, together with barley, wheat, chickpeas, lentils, onions, garlic, leeks and cucumbers, already fed the Sumerians. Until the arrival of corn, however, it was a basic food in Northern Italy where it was consumed in the form of polenta.
Today, millet knows in our country a limited spread and cultivation, at the expense of biodiversity and the usability of a tasty and good product, which still constitutes the basic food of many African populations, being the most widespread cereal, also because , It prefers sandy soil and the presence of mineral layers in the soil (also called “sand grain”): in fact, it is the cereal rich in minerals (especially calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, silicon and fluorine).
In today’s western human consumption, the millet has marginal interest, being used to produce flour and groats used mainly by macrobiotic cuisine.
The dietary value is high, due to the discrete protein content (11% by weight) (similar to that of wheat), mineral salts and raw fiber.
It is also rich in Vitamins A and B, especially niacin, B6 and folic acid, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc. Because of its high content of silicic acid, and not salicylic as misplaced elsewhere, it is often considered a true beauty product for skin and hair, fingernails and nail polish, stimulating growth. The millet does not contain gluten, so the preparation for baking is lower than barley, wheat and rye flour. When combined with wheat (or arabic gum in the case of celiac products), it can be used to produce leavened bread. On its own, it can be used for non-leavened “crush”.
It is particularly rich in lecithin, a substance capable of performing excellent control over blood cholesterol levels and which improves memory, concentration, and intellectual activity in general; It provides an excellent contribution of choline, a key ingredient for nervous function.
It is an easily digestible cereal, which is particularly suitable for early infants, elderly people, convalescence, for pregnant women (according to some authors it is able to reduce the frequency of abortions) and for those who are intense intellectual activity.
It is slightly refreshing, so it can be considered more suitable for spring-summer consumption and meals in the first half of the day.
Since none of the types of millet is strictly related to wheat, it is a food indicated for celiac disease or for those suffering from other forms of allergies or gluten or wheat intolerance. Million is also a mild inhibitor of thyroid peroxidase, the enzyme involved in the synthesis of thyroid hormones (a recent study found a close correlation between celiac disease and autoimmune thyroiditis in pediatric patients) and should therefore not be consumed in large quantities by Those who suffer from thyroid problems.
In Chinese traditional medicine, it is considered a lukewarm, less warming of the oat. Its considerable content in lecithin and choline makes it particularly suitable for sedentary people, those who are engaged in intellectual work and convalescents, as well as pregnant women.
Being rich in lipids, storage in the form of flakes or flour is limited over time, while it is kept in grain long. It is therefore advisable to grind the grains at the time of use.
Methods of Preparation –
The cheesecake, it is impossible to chew and is otherwise nutrient-free. However, it contains gluten, unlike the internal sowing: if the decortication is not well done, the cereal can not be used for celiac disease.
However, all the preparations (with decorted seeds) with millet flour for celiac food are very interesting. In this case this food can replace that part of the food that with this disease can not be satisfied by the grain.
Another feature of extreme interest is its alkalizing properties: because of its wealth of minerals such as calcium and magnesium, millet is the only cereal that helps the body to eliminate acid slags, produced in large quantities by food Modern western and our stressful life rhythms.
It has always been considered a tonic of spleen and stomach in Oriental Medicine, millet is actually the most recommended cereal in the case of gastritis or stomach acidity.
It combats stress, depression, fatigue. A last advantage that makes it suitable even for the hectic modern times is its ease of preparation: it takes only 15 minutes to cook in boiling water. Before pouring it into a pot, however, it should be rinsed abundantly with running water to eliminate any turbidity.
The millet can be eaten as such with a little oil and spices, but it can be used to prepare excellent minestrons, delicious velvety creams, filled with seasoned vegetables, croquettes and molds.
Let’s now look at millet preparation.
Milk meatballs with vegetables with bean cream (ingredients for 32 meatballs):
Milk shelled 200 g, Water 550 g, Extra virgin olive oil 25 g, Gluten-free breadcrumbs 50 g, Chopped parsley 5 g, Curcuma powder 10 g, Garlic 1 spicchio, Zucchini 100 g, Carrots 100 g, Veal 15 g , Eggplant 100 g, Chopped Parsley 5 g.
To prepare millet meatballs with vegetables with bean cream, starting with millet preparation. Rinse the millet well beneath a sparkling water and drain it, finely chop the shallot, and cut the carrot into dadins. Cut the eggplant and the zucchini into cubes, and put everything aside. Then warm the oil in a frying pan and add the millet, let it toast for a few minutes, mixing from time to time, then pour hot water to the boil and let it boil for 25 minutes. Once cooked, move the millet in a bowl and allow it to cool completely. In another frying pan, fry the shallot in a low-fat oil, then add the carrots), then the aubergines and finally the zucchini. Slices everything, and cook for 20 minutes with a spoon of hot water or vegetable broth until they become soft. Now dedicate yourself to the preparation of bean cream: graze them one by one and once all grain, make them bark for about 10-15 minutes. Then pour the beans into a container with high edges, add oil, mint and salt and mix it all with a dough mixer until you get a creamy mixture. Add to the cold millet: vegetables, minced parsley, a clove of crushed garlic and turmeric. Finally, add 50 g of gluten-free bread crumbs. Cook the meatballs in a static oven at 180 ° for 18-20 minutes or in a ventilated oven at 160 ° for 10-15 minutes. Serve your millet meatballs with vegetables along with bean cream.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. The Health of the Lord’s Pharmacy, Tips and Experiences with Medicinal Herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (eds.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and surgical uses are indicated for information purposes only; they do not represent any prescription of a medical type; Therefore, no responsibility for their use for any curative, aesthetic or food use is considered.