Yes, this is an important question. But first let us know what Finger Millets are.
It is a small-seeded species of cereal crop or grain grown in the arid and semi-arid regions of Asia and Africa (known to have been in cultivation in East Asia for the last 10,000 years), which is commonly known as finger millet, African finger millet, caracan millet, and koracan. The most common name of this Millet is Ragi which is originally the name of Finger Millet in Kannada Language where it is the main ingredient of Karnataka staple diet. If you have an agronomic interest in growing Ragi then know that it is very adaptable to higher elevations which is why it is grown in the Himalayan regions as high as up to 2,300 metres. You can safely intercrop Ragi with other legumes like peanuts, cowpeas and pigeon peas or other plants such as Niger seeds. Ragi is known for its potential to improve nutrition, boost food security and support sustainable landcare. It is discovered that Ragi formed an important part of prehistoric diet in Indian, Chinese Neolithic and Korean Mumun societies beating Rice and Wheat far behind. Foxtail Millet and Proso Millet or Broomcorn (Panicum miliaceum) were important crops beginning in the Early Neolithic ages.
As a breakfast cereal Ragi can be had as a simple and nutritious recipe. All you will need is milk and sugar (or jaggery if you are conscious of calories). Add a little ragi to your daily chapati flour and you can considerably reduce the gluten content. If you look into your grandmother’s recipe book you will find a sizeable number of traditional recipes made only of Ragi and other Millets. It is the darkest of all Millets, with a reddish hue and a hard texture. The nutty flavor common to all Millets is present in Ragi also. You will be surprised that the sweet Ragi porridge recipe is also to be found in Russian, German and Chinese cuisines. For it’s gluten free property, Ragi is being noticed in Western countries like the two American Continents. In India you will find Ragi in states of Rajasthan, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Goa where it is not only grown but also consumed in the form of various recipes like Ragi Balls or Mudde as side dish with Sambar or non-veg curry, as infant milk which is made with Ragi malt and is considered very wholesome for infants of six months age. Ragi is one grain/flour which is also offered to Gods and Goddesses during festivals in Tamil Nadu. In Kerala, Ragi as a nutritive powder is added to their traditional Puttu recipe of Rice and Coconut.
Thus Ragi can be safely considered a healthy alternative to Wheat for its mineral and vitamin content which is way higher than that of Wheat. Ragi is also a better replacement for polished Rice, Cassava, Maize, etc. and can also be made into cake, bread and pudding. So, what are you thinking? Go ahead and discover Ragi and be its forever fan.