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Different types of Millets

Millets are a group of highly nutritious and versatile grains that have been an integral part of traditional diets for centuries. Contrary to popular belief, millets are not a single type of grain, but rather a diverse family of small-seeded cereals. Understanding the different types of millets is crucial for unlocking their full potential in modern cuisine and agriculture.

Major and Minor Millets

When it comes to the types of millets, we can broadly categorize them into major millets and minor millets. The major millets include finger millet (ragi), pearl millet (bajra/bajri/kambu), sorghum (jowar/cholam). These varieties are widely cultivated and consumed around the world.

On the other hand, minor millets such as kodo millet, little millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, barnyard millet and browntop millet may be less well-known, but they are no less nutritious. These underutilized grains are making a comeback as health-conscious consumers seek out more diverse and sustainable food options.

Hybrid vs Non-Hybrid (Domestic)

Beyond this basic classification, millets can also be divided into hybrid and non-hybrid (domestic) varieties. Hybrid millets are created through intentional cross-breeding to combine desirable traits, while non-hybrid or domestic millets are the result of natural selection and traditional cultivation practices.

Parboiled vs Raw

Parboiled millets undergo a process where the grains are soaked, steamed, and then dried. This method helps to remove sand, dirt and stones from millets. Parboiled millets also have a fluffier texture and a more pronounced nutty flavor. For those new to millets, parboiled varieties can be an excellent entry point, as they are easier to cook and have a more familiar taste.

On the other hand, raw millets are simply the whole, unprocessed grains. While they may require a bit more preparation time, raw millets offer a more authentic, earthy flavor profile. They also tend to have a slightly firmer, chewier texture. For health-conscious consumers looking to maximize the nutritional benefits of millets, raw varieties are the way to go.

Pearled vs Regular

When it comes to the types of millets, there are two main categories to consider: pearled millets and regular millets.

Pearled millets are the variety that is most commonly consumed by humans. These millets have had their outer husk removed, making them easier to cook and digest. Pearled millets are a nutritious and versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes, from porridges to pilafs.

On the other hand, regular millets are typically used as bird feed. These millets still have their outer husk intact, which makes them less palatable for human consumption. It's important to note that regular millets cannot be imported into certain regions, such as the United States, as they are considered to be seeds rather than a food product.

Polished vs Unpolished

Polished millets, have had their husk removed (pearled) and a significant amount of their fiber content stripped away. This process makes them more suitable for creating millet-based recipes like snacks and sweets, as the reduced fiber content allows for a softer, more refined texture. While polished millets may be more palatable for some, it's important to note that they have lost a significant portion of their nutritional value in the process.

On the other hand, unpolished millets also have their husk removed (pearled), but they retain a much higher percentage of their original fiber content, often up to 80%. These millets are ideal for those looking to incorporate more wholesome, nutrient-dense grains into their diet. The increased fiber content not only supports digestive health but also helps to regulate blood sugar levels and promote feelings of fullness.

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