Millet: How A Trendy Ancient Grain Turned Nomads Into Farmers


Millet isn’t just one grain but, rather, a ragbag group of small-seeded grasses. Hardy, gluten-free and nutritious, millet has become an “it” grain in recent years.


Like amaranth and quinoa before it, millet – a hardy, gluten-free ancient seed – has become an “it” grain in recent years. Once dismissed as birdseed, millet can now be found sprinkled on top of mashed potatoes at top-rated restaurants, cooked into baby foods, and generally extolled for its nutritious virtues. Some have even dubbed millet “the new quinoa.”

This newly trendy grain was once far more prominent in human diets: It played a pivotal role in the rise of multi-crop agriculture and settled farming societies.

That’s according to research from Martin Jones, a professor of archaeology at Cambridge University in England, and co-leader of a team whose work on the origin and spread of millet this month won a 2015 Research Award from the Shanghai Archaeological Forum.

The research sheds light on the earliest days of agriculture in China. But more importantly, according to Jones, the prize may help millet to regain its rightful place in modern agriculture.

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