Teff: The fashionable grain
In the traditional Ethiopian cafes scattered around cities worldwide you might come across Teff. Largely unknown but becoming increasingly popular, it is a staple among among Ethiopian farmers, especially in the highlands. Teff covers large swathes of farmland creating a light green ocean of waving grass. It is an ancient grain that has been cultivated in Ethiopia for thousands of years. Some scientists say that Ethiopians have been growing this grassy grain since 8000BC.
Ground into flour, teff is used to make the Ethiopian traditional bread, injera, a flat pancake with a slightly sour taste, which is eaten with spicy sauces and meat and vegetable dishes. It’s highly nutritious and gluten-free. It has unsurprisingly become popular in recent years with the growing trend of gluten-free diets.
While recently fashionable, in Ethiopia people often depend on this grain for their livelihoods. Around 80% of Ethiopians are subsistence farmers growing crops to feed their family. Agriculture in Ethiopia is generally rain fed, meaning farmers need rainfall for their crops to grow, and rainfall has become more erratic and unreliable in the face of climate change. More trees and forests can help to restore the water cycle and make weather patterns more predictable and help to secure the productivity of this grain for local people and European hipsters alike.