Everytime people ask me about Quinoa, I'm tempted to yell. I know that it is not going to have any positive effect, though. Quinoa has gained fame around the world as a superfood. I have nothing against quinoa. But Indian millets, a lot of them are nutritionally superior but poorly marketed. Poorly grown. Poorly distributed. Poorly cooked.
The Karnataka Govt has taken an initiative to start. The Agriculture minister, Mr. Krishna Byre Gowda with his eloquence wowed the audience at dinner in the Taj Ballroom, but long before that, at lunch in the modest but brilliant Prem's Grahma Bhojanam, a tete with him revealed the issues at grass root levels. Suddenly I realised that blaming everyone for wanting imported millets like quinoa is not going to help.
The fields growing millets are less than 10%, he says. Motivating farmers to grow millets is even more difficult. Demand is low, so prices (not direct millet price, but compared to the amount of money they can make by growing rice) are lower. Buyers are fewer. The govt has now taken it upon itself make a change and they are doing it big. Apparently last year, the Millet Meet opened up the avenues to the farmers to sell. The Govt is facilitating the meeting between farmers and buyers. Encouraging entrepreneurs to take up millets, like one IT professional turned millet distributer commented.
Of course, healthy food need not be tasteless. At lunch, Prem's served a thali with four types of 'rice.' Curd, Tamarind, Lemon and Sambar. Of course none of it was rice. It didn't matter because it tasted so good. What mattered though, was that I wasn't lying like a python unable to move after a meal. A keerai vada and plantain sheeth and millets were the starters. Ragi kali and Vendhayam (Fenugreek) kali, were on the sides. An Ashoka Halwa with ghee finished off the no-frills-yet-brilliant lunch. While the food was no frills, the conversation with Mr. Krishna Byre Gowda and Mr. N S Krishnamurthy was anything but.
Forward to 8 PM and dinner was at Taj Ballroom where a special 3 course meal was served while Mr. Gowda addressed the gathering and educated them about millets and all what he told us over an intimate meal. Millet and Asparagus salad beautifully opened dinner, followed by a roast chicken breast with millet gravy and cake, but the dessert cake took the ......well, cake. A millet cake served with cream and chocolate, the versatility of the millets was in full show here.
Clearly, its time to show the world that quinoa is not the only millet superfood around! But we need more than one minister, one restauranteur, one blogger, one.........you get the idea, to make it work.