Nutmeg – Spice of the Islands

Nutmeg is the oval shaped seed of a tree. It is a rich, aromatic spice, long known since antiquity for its aphrodisiac, and curative properties. In Traditional Chinese and Indian medicine, it’s used for illnesses related to the nervous and digestive systems.

Nutmeg is rich in potassium, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. It has good amount of sodium and small amount of iron, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium.

You can add this spice easily to both savoury and sweet raw dishes. 

Teff – Whole Grain of the Ancients

Teff cultivationThis African whole grain of the ancients, is native to the arid lands of Ethiopia. Teff is believed to have originated in Ethiopia between 4000 and 1000 BC. Teff seeds were discovered in a pyramid thought to date back to 3359 BC. The grain has been widely cultivated and used in the countries of Ethiopia, India and it’s colonies, and Australia. Teff is grown primarily as a cereal crop in Ethiopia where it is ground into flour, fermented for three days then made into enjera, a sourdough type ‘Enjera’ flat bread.

The word teff is thought to have been derived from the Amharic word teffa which means “lost,” due to small size of the grain and how easily it is lost if dropped. It is the smallest grain in the world, measuring only about 1/32 of an inch in diameter and taking 150 grains to weigh as much as one grain of wheat. The common English names for teff are teff, lovegrass, and annual bunch grass.

The highly nutritious grain, Teff (or Tef), has an ancient and fascinating history. It is the tiniest grain in the world, taking roughly 150 grains to weigh as much as one grain of wheat! Because of its small size, teff is not able to be separated into germ, bran, and endosperm to create other products. And since it is so small, the bulk of the grain consists of mostly bran and germ–the most nutritious part of any grain.

The nutrients contained in Teff include:

  • Calcium
  • Phosphorous
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Barium
  • Potassium
  • Thiamine
  • Amino acids, especially high levels of lysine

Teff is one of the most nutritious grains in the world. More recent research is showing it has many other important nutrients. It has 12% protein, 80% complex carbohydrate, 3% fat. It is very rich in essential amino acid. It has the highest amount of lysine than any other grain except for rice and oats.

Although Teff contains a minute amount of gluten, it is said not of the type that people with gluten allergies would react to. Most gluten intolerant people do not have a problem with this whole grain. However, what makes teff grain even more attractive is the fact that it is also described as gluten free food. Gluten is a protein that causes allergic reactions to some people. People with celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, there fore teff grain, gluten free cereal, is an alternative to wheat, rye and other cereals. For this reason, teff is gaining attention in the US health food markets. In fact, commercial farmers in Idaho and Oklahama have been growing it to satisfy the growing demand for it (among people seeking gluten free diet and Ethiopian and Eritrean food consumers).

Teff is quite versatile and can be prepared many different ways. It can be boiled and prepared as a simple hot breakfast cereal. It can be ground and used as a flour replacement, or since it has slight mucilaginous properties, it works well as a thickener in sauces or stews. Teff can also be sprouted and used as a topper on sandwiches or salads.

One simple preparation is to combine 1/2 cup of teff with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and let simmer for about 20 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat, leave covered, and let sit for 5 minutes. Season to taste with unprocessed mineral salt, fruit, spices or herbs.

There are 4 main types of teff, the most expensive type is white teff known as ‘magna” teff by Ethiopians. The color of the Teff grains can be ivory, light tan to deep brown or dark reddish brown purple, depending on the variety. Teff has a mild, nutty, and a slight molasses like sweetness. The white teff has a chestnut-like flavor and the darker varieties are earthier and taste more like hazelnuts. The grain is somewhat mucilaginous. It is interesting that documents dated in the late 1800’s indicate the upper class consumed the lighter grains, the dark grain was the food of soldiers and servants, and cattle consumed hay made from teff. The most sought after is the white variety, although the highest iron concentration is in the red grain.

Teff should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place in tightly covered containers such as glass jars. Cooked Teff can be kept in the refrigerator, but should be used within a few days.


A sprout is the stage of a plants life cycle between being a seed and becoming a plant. A common everyday example of a sprout that can be found in most supermarkets is the bean sprout which is often used in stir-fries.The seed can be fooled into sprouting by simulating conditions that are favourable to seed germination; this is done by soaking the seeds in water for a number of hours.

Before a seed has been sprouted it contains enzyme inhibitors; these enzyme inhibitors prevent the seed from growing. The unsprouted seeds when eaten are harder to digest as the enzyme inhibitors hinder our own bodies enzymes from digesting the seed. Sprouting de-activates the enzyme inhibitors present in the seed and makes it easier for our body to digest the seed. Because sprouting makes it easier for our bodies to digest the food we are able to gain more nutritional value from the sprouted food when compared to the same food in unsprouted form.


Besrat A., Admasu A., Ogbai M. Critical study of the iron content of tef (Eragrostis tef). Ethiopian Medical Journal, 1980, 18(2): 45 -52.

Gilbert F. Stallknecht. New Crop FactSheet. Teff. Retrieved July 14, 2008.

National Academy Press. Lost crops of Africa. Vol I.  National Academy Press, Washington DC. pages 215 – 236.

Sufian S. and Pitwell L. R. Iron content of teff (Eragrostis abyssinica).  Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 1968, 19(8): 439.

Spaenij-Dekking, L., Kooy-Winkelaar, Y., Koning, F. The Ethiopian Cereal Tef in Celiac Disease. The New England Journal of Medicine, 2005, 353(16): 1748 – 1749.


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