What exactly are millets? Are millets really better than rice and wheat for me? Why is eating millets considered to be good for the planet? Should I be cooking foxtail millet the same way I cook kodo? Are there enough millets being produced to meet the rising demand for millets, especially with this year being the International Year of Millets (IYOM)?
If you’ve been looking to include more millets in your diet, or have been bombarded with social media posts and billboards and news articles talking about millets in the recent past, chances are that some of these questions have already risen in your mind.
One of the reasons that The Locavore is excited about working with millets is that while they are in the spotlight again, we seem to have forgotten how to cook with them. This is peculiar given how an incredible diversity of millets have been an integral part of India’s food culture.
The Millet Revival Project 2023 is our modest attempt to demystify cooking with millets, and relearn the impact that it has on our ecology. This initiative aims to facilitate gradual incorporation of millets into our diets, as well as create a space for meaningful conversation and engagement so that we can tap into the resilience of millets while also rediscovering its taste.
We hope to help you learn more about each millet, figure out different ways of cooking them, and also look into your own culinary heritage (are there any millet recipes in your family?). That’s not all. In a world that is grappling with the climate crisis, it is crucial for us to consider and incorporate sustainable food choices in our lives.
Millets are resilient in numerous ways—they require less water, will grow in high and low altitudes, and are more tolerant of heat—which makes them ideal to grow, and also include them in a future in which no one goes hungry. Millets are better for you, better for the farmer and soil, and better for our planet!
The Millet Revival Project, led by The Locavore in association with the Rainmatter Foundation, sets out to —
- Bring more millets onto people’s plates in delicious and balanced ways, and help consumers understand what this means for their bodies, the farmers who grow it, and the environment around them.
- Study and document the diversity of millets across different regions in India, and the impact that growing and consuming it has on our planet.
- Create a digital repository that makes it easy for people to find those working in the millet space: information regarding consumer brands, farmers, restaurants, and experts.
Millet Revival Project: First Phase, Jan-May 2023
So, how will we put these objectives into action? Here’s our plan for the 1st phase of this extensive project, and it takes many shapes and forms:
1. Millet Cooking Lab
Profiling millets across India, this virtual kitchen lab will create a collection of millet-based recipes which are creative and interesting but also easy to cook. The recipes will also be tested to observe how different millets react to a variety of cooking methods. But the main idea of the lab? To encourage people to incorporate millets into their meals, in interesting and delicious ways.
Sign up to be a chef volunteer or content creator by filling out this Volunteer Callout form.
2. Millet Climate & Policy Lab
Can eating millets impact our climate? Our team of researchers and volunteers will facilitate and promote a nuanced understanding of how millets—known to be climate-smart—can help tackle the climate crisis.
Volunteer to be a project researcher by filling out this Volunteer Callout form.
3. Millet Resource Bank
Want to find out about all the work in India around millets? Our open-access repository lists and gathers details from various efforts across India focussed on promoting, distributing, and making millets more accessible. This evolving bank will include farmer groups, environmental organisations, consumer brands, restaurants, and anyone who is doing significant work in the millet space.
Know anyone who is doing amazing work to promote millets, and isn’t already featured in our bank? Contribute by filling out this Millet Resource Bank form.
4. Millet Stories
Examining the past, present and future of millets, The Locavore will publish stories that explore the various aspects of this hardy grain—its history in India, our culinary knowledge of it, experiences from those who grow and advocate it, and its ties to our environment and the ongoing climate crisis. These will be features, interviews, photo essays, recipes, and more.
Pitch us a story by writing to us at email@example.com with the subject line ‘MRP Story Pitch’.
We think you’ll enjoy A New Appetite for The Old Grain by Sharanya Deepak, in which she draws attention to the urgent need to center the people who have preserved millets, and the land on which it grows.
5. Events, Online Workshops, and Conversations With Experts
We’re keen that the knowledge that we acquire through the project, especially through our labs, is passed on to others as well. Our online workshops will be designed to demystify cooking with millets, and yes, there will be demonstrations by expert chefs!
Since the project also looks at the larger context in which millet is placed, our Beyond the Plate sessions with millet experts will address its various other aspects like its impact on the climate, history in India, and farmer livelihoods. In the past, Beyond the Plate has dealt with themes like identity, caste, mental health, and seafood sustainability.
The Locavore is kicking things off with what promises to be an exciting Millet Meetup in Mumbai in March. Register to attend this event by signing up via this Millet Meetup form. Only limited seats are available, so sign up quickly!
6. Collaborations with the F&B Industry
Restaurants, hotels and other F&B outlets hold a lot of power when it comes to shaping people’s perceptions and choices. In the case of millets, we see so much potential if consumers are able to taste these in an atmosphere that inspires curiosity and adventure. Not to forget, when millets are presented to them in tasty and memorable ways. We’re looking to collaborate with dynamic restaurants and chefs who not only enjoy creative challenges, but are also interested in bringing millets into their kitchens.
If you are a restaurant, cafe or F&B outlet in India that already incorporates millets on your menu, we’d love to add you to our repository. You just have to fill this Millet Resource Bank form!
Future Phases of the Millet Revival Project and What Else to Expect
In subsequent phases of this project later this year, we’re also planning a bunch of other fun engagements like putting together an extensive Indian Millet Cookbook, collaborating with a microbrewery to highlight millets through beers, and hosting a larger Millet Festival event later this year!
Rainmatter Foundation is a non-profit organisation that supports organisations and projects for climate action, a healthier environment, and livelihoods associated with them. The foundation and The Locavore have co-created this Millet Revival Project for a millet-climate outreach campaign for urban consumers. To learn more about the foundation and the other organisations they support, click here.