Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Bread Class: Tef Paper

For my bread class, we were required to write a paper on a type of flour. I decided to do it on tef, an ancient grain grown in east Africa, and only recently becoming popular in the US.

We finally got our papers back today, and I am happy to say I got an A+. Yay!

So, here is my paper, just in case anyone is interested.


Tef is an ancient grain which until recently was almost entirely limited to Ethiopia and Eritrea Tef is a grass, and has the smallest seed of any domesticated grain. It can be grown in areas that other grains find inhospitable. Tef has recently caught the attention of those needing a gluten free diet, as it has a negligible amount of the protein.

Tef is the only domesticated member of the large Eragrostis family of grasses(Ingram, 2003). It's exact ancestor species is unknown, but there are a number of similar wild species of eragrostis that are gathered during times of food scarcity(National Research Council, 1996). The primary difference between tef and closely related wild species is that in tef the seed head remains intact at maturity, facilitating harvesting(Ingram, 2003). Tef has the smallest seed size of any domesticated grain. This allows a large area of ground to be sown with a small volume of grain. The straw makes nutritious fodder for livestock. Tef is adapted to a variety of terrains , but does especially well in dry uplands, where other crops have trouble.

The exact time of tef's domestication is uncertain. It appears likely that some time between 4000 and 1000 BCE was when the grain was domesticated (Ketema, 1997). It has been speculated that tef may have been first raised by pastoralists as foster for animals, and only later became a primary food source for human (D'Andrea, 2011).

Tef is the overwhelmingly most popular grain in Ethiopia, occupying more than half the acreage used for growing grains (National Research Council, 1996). Several varieties are grown, with white tef being considered the best, and red tef the least desirable However, white tef is trickier to grow, and produces less grain per acre than the red variety. In Ethiopia, the primary use of tef is to grind it into flour to make injera(Ketema, 1997). Injera is produced by fermenting the flour for three days, then fried on one side to make a large spongy griddlecake. Injera is used to serve food on, and pieces are used as a utensil to scoop up food.

In 1986, Wayne Carlson began growing tef in Idaho (Kelly, 03 Oct 2012). While farmers were skeptical of the value of the crop, he has found a ready market for tef flour in markets and restaurants that cater to East African immigrants. Very recently, tef has begun to catch the attention of those interested in a gluten free diet. This has resulted in increased demand for tef flour. Tef has a distinctive flavor, somewhat reminiscent of buckwheat (Hilson, Jan 2010). It is very high in protein .

Tef is an ancient grain, but one that has been unknown outside of East Africa until recently. It is a hardy plant that grows well in semi-arid highlands, and requires minimal tilling to plant. It is just now beginning to move beyond it's traditional usage in Ethiopian cuisine. Because of it has no gluten, it has caught the attention of cooks looking to expand the available flours for a gluten free lifestyle.

Works Cited

D'Andrea, A. Catherine, and Wadge, Pamela, “T'ef (Eragrostis tef): A Legacy of Pastoralism?”, Windows on the African Past: Current Approaches to African Archaeobotany, Africa Magna Verlag Press, 2011.

Hilson, Beth, ”Gluten-Free Flour Power”, Living Without, Jan 2010, 29 Oct 2013. <>

Ingram, Amanda L., and Doyle Jeff J., “The Origin and Evolution of Eragrostis Tef “, American Journal of Botany, vol 90(1), 2003.

Kelly, James Patrick , “What the Teff?”, Boise Weekly, 03 Oct 2012, 29 Oct 2013.

Ketema, Seyfu, Tef, Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research, 1997.

National Research Council's Board on Science and Technology for International Development, Lost Crops of Africa volume I: Grains, National Academy Press, 1996.

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