Friday, 26 October 2012

Millet - Not Just Good For Birds!


Source for this image here.

It's so cold here today!  Bitterly cold with a biting East wind, which meant having to put on scarves and gloves before we set out to pick up Papa Bear's lift this morning,  We have our first snow forecast for tomorrow, though I don't think it is expected to last.  It will look pretty though I hope!  Once it starts to get cold enough for frost, our central heating goes on, and I don't think any of us were sorry when it clicked on this morning!  Even the birds were looking a bit miserable and chilly.  They puff up like pom-poms when they are cold, just like outdoor birds.  I always take pity on them when I see them looking cold, so I was glad that the heating was on today - by this afternoon they had perked up quite happily and were hopping around as usual and enjoying their Friday treat of millet spray.

Did you know that millet (pictured above) isn't just good for pet birds?  Although I describe it as a treat for our birds, in fact it is very nutritious, containing a number of vital minerals and vitamins including calcium, vitamin B and also protein, all of which are essential for the health of birds - and for us, too!

Millet is in fact not a seed but a grass.  It is grown in many countries around the world, and is easy to cultivate, having been grown as a cereal crop for many centuries.  It's gluten free, low in fat and high in fibre, so it makes a useful addition to any diet, and it has a pleasant, nutty taste.  Of course, our birds eat it still attached to the stalk, and they really enjoy foraging for it this way.  It's far more natural for them to eat this than it is for them to have a manufactured product, no matter how nutritious that may be.  As it's so low in fat  they can eat it quite freely, and I have yet to discover a bird that didn't adore it!

I think it tastes good too, but it's much better cooked!  You can boil it like rice - it cooks a little more quickly than rice does - and eat it as a savory side dish, or you can use it as you would bulghur wheat or couscous, and add veggies and some dressing to it to make it into a salad that can be eaten warm or cold.  In addition you can also cook it like oatmeal and serve it as a breakfast cereal!  Cold, boiled millet can be shaped into patties with some chopped onion, beaten egg to bind, and seasonings, and cooked in a griddle or skillet (frying) pan.  It also makes a nice addition to home baked bread.

I wouldn't recommend using the same millet that your pet birds enjoy for your own meals.  If you want to try cooking some millet, the best place to find it will be your health food store, where it will be with the other grains and flours.  In England it's inexpensive and keeps well - in fact, I have some right now in my kitchen cupboards, though I have to confess, I usually use it as an ingredient in birdie muffins!  Perhaps I will try making some oatmeal with it tomorrow morning - I think we're going to need something good and warming to start our frosty day!

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