Will Ethiopia’s Teff Be the Next Super Grain?

Many cultures around the world have a grain that is not grown or even known outside its home area.

Quinoa is from South America. Amaranth fed the Aztecs in Central America.

Now, an ancient grain from Ethiopia, teff, is appearing on grocery shelves in America. Teff has been an important part of the Ethiopian diet for thousands of years. Like oat, rice and wheat, it is a cereal grass. Teff is known for its small grain. It is used mainly to make flour.

Teff has a mild, nutty or earthy taste. Teff flour is the key ingredient for the well-known, spongy flatbread found in Ethiopian restaurants.

Wayne Carlson learned about teff while doing public health work in Africa in the mid-1970s.

“I came to know teff because I was eating it all the time and hosted by teff farmers.”

In the late 70s, Carlson returned to the U.S., married and settled in southwest Idaho. Then he came up with an idea to introduce teff grass to North America in his home state.

“Geologically, it is very similar to Ethiopia. Ethiopia is placed on the East African Rift Valley, which is very much like the Snake River Plain.”

Wayne and his wife Elisabeth are not farmers, nor do they want to be. So they convinced actual farmers in Idaho, Oregon and Nevada to grow teff on contract for them. The Carlsons milled it themselves.

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