Eragrostis tef 70 days from transplant
Teff is African in origin and is considered to be the world’s smallest edible grain. It makes a nutritious wheat-like flour. It is the grain used to make Injera, an Ethiopian sourdough flat bread. It is also used as a brewing grain for beer. The easiest way to utilize this famously nutritious grain is to simply cook it in a little water for 15 min. as you would oatmeal. Let it sit for 10 minutes to thicken a bit, and you’ve got a delicious, hot cereal dish. No processing required!
I recommend starting your plants indoors for 4-5 weeks before setting out after frost in late May. Teff can be direct seeded but the tiny seeds are difficult to sow evenly, and weeds (especially grasses) could quickly become a competitive problem for the tiny teff seedlings. I transplant about 1 foot apart in beds. The plants grow to 3 feet tall and bush out as they produce tillers. I strongly recommend tying the plants up by setting stakes around your bed’s perimeter and running twine around the outside as well as from side to side, across the bed. It is important to do this before irrigating the maturing plants as they lodge very easily. Lodging is when the plant falls over and can make a clean, easy harvest next to impossible. It is important to remember that teff is adapted to growing in an arid, hot climate with little or no rain. A mid-summer Indiana thunderstorm could flatten your whole crop to the ground. This also plays a part in determining when and how to harvest. Teff, like quinoa and amaranth, has special harvesting needs when grown in our region. Summer rains, aside from causing the plants to lodge can also make harvesting difficult if handled the same way you would in an arid climate. In Ethiopia, the plants are allowed to mature fully and dry out somewhat, like wheat, before cutting. This will not work well when you have a rainy summer. A good solution is to cut your plants while they are still green, as long as most of the seed heads are close to
maturity, and hang them to dry for a few weeks in a well-ventilated place, like a barn or shed. You will know the grain is getting close to maturity when you can rub the seed heads between your fingers and the tiny teff seeds easily dislodge from the plant. I thresh the grain free from the dried plants by rubbing the seed heads between the palms of my hands over a bucket or tub. Winnowing can be a bit tricky as the grain is so light. Teff can yield up to a pound of grain for every 20 sq. foot. Possibly more with more intensive growing practices.