Monday, November 02, 2015

Demand Rises for Teff, Other 'New' Alternatives to Wheat

(Nov 02, 2015, (NAMPA, IDAHO)), (VOA)))--Wayne Carlson became a convert to Ethiopia's staple grain while doing public health work in Africa in the mid-1970s. Teff flour is the key ingredient for injera, Ethiopia's signature, spongy flatbread. It has a mild, nutty or earthy taste.

Graduate students examine teff grass at the Nevada Agriculture Experiment Station at the University of Nevada-Reno. The research team is also working on genetic and agronomic field crop and soil management approaches to make the stems less prone to breaking. (Credit: Whip Villarreal)
 In the late 1970s, Carlson returned to the U.S., married and settled in southwest Idaho. Then he hatched the idea to introduce teff grass to North America in his home state.

"Geologically, it is very similar to Ethiopia," he explained. "Ethiopia is placed on the East African Rift Valley, which is very much like the Snake River Plain."

Neither Wayne nor his wife, Elisabeth, is a farmer, nor do they want to be. So they persuaded actual farmers in Idaho, and in the neighboring states of Oregon and Nevada, to grow teff on contract for them. They mill the grain into flour, but until last year there wasn't a single Ethiopian restaurant or bakery in all of Idaho to sell it to.

Undeterred, the Carlsons found customers.
"The way we started was Wayne went through the Washington, D.C., telephone book and looked for the names that were Ethiopian," Elisabeth said. And that's how the business slowly grew for several decades, serving the far-flung Ethiopian and Eritrean immigrant community in the U.S.

The Teff Company has outgrown four different mills. The first was a little stone grinder in the Carlsons' basement. They currently occupy a remodeled brewery complex in Nampa, Idaho. The teff flour coming off the packing line could well land in an upscale natural food store or commercial bakery.

According to an industry trade group, sales of alternatives to modern wheat  amaranthe, quinoa and millet, along with teff — are growing at double-digit rates each year. Read more from VOA  »

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