A type of grain cultivated in Ethiopia where it is a staple food crop. Teff is difficult to find in great quantities anywhere else in the world. Teff grows well in poor soil conditions and rugged highlands. The word “teff” means, “lost” in the Amharic language. This refers to the fact that because the seeds are so tiny, they are lost if dropped. The teff grain is so small that nearly 150 of the tiny seeds are equivalent to the size of one grain of wheat. The seeds range in color from white to red and brown. The white seeds have a mild flavor while the red and brown seeds have a very pronounced flavor that goes well with full-flavored, spicy foods. Teff is often prepared as a porridge and also as polenta, because the stickiness of the grain after cooking allows it to be easily formed and remain shaped. In Ethiopia, a thin, very sour flatbread called injera is the most common dish made with teff seeds that have been ground into flour.
There is no way to remove the husk, bran, and germ from teff seeds because the grain is so small. This means that none of the nutrients are lost as is the case with larger grains that have had the bran and germ removed during processing. Teff is high in calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and thiamin and it is a good source of fiber.
Because the teff seeds are so small, it cannot be ground into flour by the home cook using a spice mill or blender, but a flourmill can be used as well as stone grinding. Teff is available in natural food stores, specialty shops, and food stores that stock Ethiopian products. The grain may be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry area for about one year.