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Also known as
Finger millet, African millet, Red millet, Nachani, Nachni.
Ragi is an annual plant widely grown as a cereal in the arid areas of Africa and Asia. In India, ragi is mostly grown and consumed in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Goa. As a crop and after harvesting, ragi keeps extremely well and is seldom attacked by pests. This eliminates the need for chemical fertilisers and pesticides making it a safe food. It is also a cost-effective source of protein, iron, calcium and fibre, which makes it the preferred food of many communities. Notably, it is a rare source of the amino acid methionine.
The whole grain of ragi may be ground into flour or decorticated before grinding to produce either a fine particle product or flour, which is then used in various traditional foods. The flour may be ground coarsely or finely, depending on individual preference and recipe requirement.
How to select
• Ragi flour is commonly available in grocery stores in various pack sizes.
• The ragi flour should be clean, dust free and without any infestations or foul odour.
• Ragi flour is usually made into chappatis or rotis and served with vegetables. It is the favoured food of those with gluten sensitivity.
• Porridge is perhaps the most common way of consuming ragi flour. A past of ragi flour in water is cooked till done, and then enhanced with buttermilk and salt, or milk and sugar.
• Ragi porridge or a thick consistency can be had with fruits, dry fruits and nuts as a healthy breakfast.
• Ragi flour can be made into delicious dosas that can be served with coconut chutney, sambhar etc., or just eaten plain with a dollop of butter or ghee. You can add chopped onions, grated carrot, green chillies, ginger, coriander, etc. to the roti to enhance its flavour.
• Ragi flour is made into flatbreads, including thick, leavened dosa and thinner, unleavened pancakes.
• You can make kheer by combing cooked ragi flour with milk and sugar or jaggery, and garnishing with elaichi, almond slivers and chopped cashews.
• Flour from malted ragi grains can be mixed with milk or yoghurt and had with sugar or salt.
• In Karnataka, ragi flour is generally consumed in the form of ragi balls (ragi mudde). The mudde, which is prepared by cooking the ragi flour with water to achieve dough like consistency, is rolled into balls of desired size and served with ghee, rasam, sambhar, dal or other accompaniments.
• In Maharashtra, bhakri, a type of flat bread is prepared using finger millet (ragi) flour.
• In Goa, ragi is very popular and satva, pole (dosa), bhakri, ambil (a sour porridge) made of ragi are very common.
How to store
• Store ragi flour in an airtight container and keep it in a cool and dry place.
• Ragi is wonderful cereal packed with nutrients.
• It contains about 6.7 per cent of good quality protein.
• Ragi is rich in methonine, which is an amino acid lacking in most of the other cereals.
• Ragi is also found to have liberal amount of calcium.
• It has been traditionally used as a weaning food for infants. Porridge is easy to prepare, and can be enhanced with some pre-soaked and ground nuts if your child is comfortable digesting it.
• Since ragi does not contain gluten, it is a wonderful grain alternative for people who are gluten-sensitive.
• An excellent source of calcium and fibre, it also helps lower cholesterol levels in the blood; this leads to less plaque formation, prevents the blocking of blood vessels, and hence reduces the risk of hypertension and stroke.
• It helps in weight control, and has a low glycemic index suitable for diabetics.
• High fibre diets also help in reducing the risk of certain forms of cancer, improving gastro-intestinal function, and so on.