The millets are a group of small-seeded species of cereal crops or grains, widely grown around the world for food and fodder. They do not form a taxonomic group, but rather a functional or agronomic one. Their essential similarities are that they are small-seeded grasses grown in difficult production environments. It was millets, rather than rice, that formed important parts of prehistoric diet in Chinese Neolithic and Korean Mumun societies.
The protein content in millet is very close to that of wheat; both provide about 11% protein by weight.
Millets are rich in B vitamins, especially niacin, B17, B6 and folic acid, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. Millets contain no gluten, so they are not suitable for raised bread. When combined with wheat or xanthan gum (for those who have coeliac disease), though, they can be used for raised bread. Alone, they are suited for flatbread.
As none of the millets are closely related to wheat, they are appropriate foods for those with coeliac disease or other forms of allergies/intolerance of wheat. However, millets are also a mild thyroid peroxidase inhibitor and probably should not be consumed in great quantities by those with thyroid disease.
Millets are principally food sources in arid and semi-arid regions of the world. In Western India, millet flour (called "Bajari" in Gujarati and marathi) has been commonly used with "Jowar" (Sorghum called "Jwari" in Marathi) flour for hundreds of years to make the local staple flat bread (called "Rotla").
- Millets are traditionally important grains used in brewing millet beer in some cultures, for instance by the Tao people of Orchid Island and, along with sorghum, by various peoples in East Africa.
- Millet is used to prepare boza fermented drink in Balkan peninsula countries.
- Millet is the base ingredient for the distilled liquor, rakshi, in Nepal.
- Millet porridge is a traditional Russian food, eaten sweet (with milk and sugar added at the end of cooking process) or savoury with meat or vegetable stews.
- Coeliac patients can replace certain cereal grains in their diets by consuming millets in various forms including breakfast cereals.
- Millet can often be used in recipes instead of buckwheat, rice, or quinoa.
- Millet sprays are often recommended as healthy treats to finicky pet birds, as they are easily eaten and (in the case of destruction-prone hookbills) easily broken.
- Millet, and other birdseed, is commonly used as fillings for juggling beanbags.
The basic preparation consists in washing the millet and toasting it while moving until one notes a characteristic scent. Then five measures of boiling water for each two measures of millet are added with some sugar or salt. The mixture is cooked covered using low flame for 30-35 minutes.