Teff (taf, lovegrass or annual bunch grass), is an annual grass, a species of lovegrass native to the northern Ethiopian Highlands of northeastern Africa. It has an attractive nutrition profile, being high in dietary fibre and iron and providing protein and calcium. It has a sour taste. It is similar to millet and quinoa in cooking, but the seed is much smaller.
Teff is an important food grain in Ethiopia and Eritrea, where it is used to make injera, and less so in India and Australia. (It is now raised in the USA, in Idaho in particular.) Because of its small seeds (less than 1 mm diameter), one can hold enough to sow a large area in one hand. This property makes teff particularly suited to a seminomadic lifestyle.
Teff is believed to have originated in Ethiopia between 4000 BC and 1000 BC. It is adapted to environments ranging from drought stress to waterlogged soil conditions. Maximum teff production occurs at altitudes of 1800 to 2100 m, growing season rainfall of 450 to 550 mm, and a temperature range of 10 to 27 °C. Teff is day length sensitive and flowers best with 12 hours of daylight.
Cultivation and uses
A traditional food plant in Africa, this little-known grain has potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare.
Teff has been widely cultivated and used in the countries of South Africa, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India and its colonies, and Australia. Teff accounts for about a quarter of total cereal production in Ethiopia. The grain has a high concentration of different nutrients, a very high calcium content, and high levels of phosphorus, iron, copper, aluminium, barium, and thiamin. A big advantage, the iron from teff is easily absorbed by the body. Teff is high in protein. It is considered to have an excellent amino acid composition (including all 8 essential amino acids for humans) and has lysine levels higher than wheat or barley. Because of this variety, it stimulates the flora of the large intestine. Teff is high in carbohydrates and fibre. It contains no gluten, so it is appropriate for those with celiac disease. Consumers greatly prefer white teff to darker coloured varieties.