Bajra is nutritious, tasty and freely available
As the sun kisses the desert dunes in the villages of Rajasthan, it signals the end of a hectic day. The hungry desert denizens return home, where a sumptuous fare of traditional food awaits them. As they laze on their charpoys (cots), they are served rabori, an appetiser made of bajra, jeera, chach and salt. This is followed by a full meal of the khejri vegetable and bajra rotis laced with ghee . "Life cannot get any better. A sumptuous meal of bajra rotis is all one wants to have a good night sleep," says Narayan Das Prajapati, a Jodhpur-based farmer.
Bajra is popular in the state, as the millet can be grown in sandy soil under rain-fed conditions. The crop is also grown in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. The temperature during the growing season should be 25-35 c. The rainfall requirement ranges between 35-50 centimetres. Prolonged spells of warm, rainless weather lead to crop failure.
Bajra has multiple uses. Besides being a staple food, its stalk is an important feed for milch animals. Poor people, especially in rural areas, generally consume millets like bajra. These contain non-edible fibrous husk or bran to the extent of 8-15 per cent. But with minimal processing, these grains not only become tasty but also easily digestible, without losing much of their nutritional value.
Bajra is mainly used for making rotis. As compared to other grains, its protein is relatively richer in amino acids like lysine, methionine and tryptophan. The crop contains five to six per cent fat, which is of significance to people who like a low fat diet; 400-500 grammes of bajra would provide 20-30 grammes of fat. The crop is a good source of vitamin b1. It is also a better source of iron than other grains.
B D Tripathi is the head of the department of environmental sciences, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi
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