The second event organised by the University of Cambridge as part of the EIT Food AnnualFoodAgenda series was run on 16th March, 2019, as part of the annual Cambridge Science Festival. This event was a food stall in the Plant Sciences Marquee, entitled: “Mission: millets for the millions – introducing tasty treats from an ancient grain”.
The marquee was open from 10am to 4pm and attracted over 3,000[i] members of the public during that time. Inside the marquee, there were 12 different stalls, each consisting of two tables. Five members of the TIGR2ESS programme team manned the millets stall and spoke with the many visitors who stopped by.
On the first table, we had a guessing game using various different grain types, ranging from wheat to millets. These were presented as whole grains, packed in cloth bags. Children and adults could open the bags to view and touch the contents and then guess which grain was which. On the table we kept answer sheets explaining a little bit more about the history of each grain type, where it is grown and its use as a food item. The game was a big success, with one of the children asking if she could take it home.
On the second table, we displayed various types of millets seeds as well as processed millet food items, ranging from breakfast cereals, pasta shapes and pancake mixture to millet cookies and spicy millet chips. People could try and taste a few of these products. We also handed out millet recipe leaflets.
We showed a world map with a range of millet products and where they are eaten (source). For most people this display was an eye opener, as in the UK we can only buy foxtail millet seeds for human consumption (whilst some other millet seeds are for sale as bird seed only) and there are very few processed products available that are made from this ancient grain. A few people from Indian and African origin recognised the different millet seeds and we had lively conversations about the various regional dishes to cook with each millet type.
People with gluten intolerance were also very interested, as they can eat millet products, provided they do not contain any other grains that contain gluten. People also wanted to know more about the nutritional value of millets and they were interested to hear how it is grown and processed. We spoke about how the green revolution changed the focus to wheat, rice and maize and how this affected people’s diets. We discussed how to make more sustainable food choices and many people were interested in trying the millet recipes.
Audience feedback was very positive, with comments including:
“I did not know oats looked like this, I have only seen rolled oats before.”
“Who knew there
were so many types of millets?”