Organic proso millet (Panicum miliaceum) is also known as common millet, hog millet or white millet. Naturally gluten free, both the wild ancestor and the location of domestication of proso millet are unknown, but it first appears as a crop in both Transcaucasia and China about 7,000 years ago, suggesting that it may have been domesticated independently in each area. It is still extensively cultivated in India, Russia, Ukraine, the Middle East, Turkey and Romania. In the United States, proso is mainly grown for birdseed. It is sold as health food and due to its lack of gluten it can be included in the diets of people who cannot tolerate wheat.
Proso is well adapted to many soil and climatic conditions; it has a short growing season, and needs little water. The water requirement of proso is probably the lowest of any major cereal. It is an excellent crop for dryland and no-till farming. Proso millet is an annual grass whose plants reach an average height of 100 cm (4 feet.) The seedheads grow in bunches. The seeds are small (2-3 mm or .1 inch or so) and can be cream, yellow, orange-red, or brown in colour.
Proso is an annual grass like all other millets, but it is not closely related to pearl millet, foxtail millet, finger millet, or the barnyard millets.
The millet seed is a small round, ivory colored seed, very small in diameter. Millet is thought to be one of the first grains cultivated by man. The first recorded comments regarding millet date back to 5,500 BC in China. Millet could have been domesticated hundred or even thousands of years before this in Africa where is still grows wild throughout the continent. Found in ancient pottery and ancient writings alike throughout China, millet was an extremely important grain. Much of millets success has been its ability to produce well in hot, arid, drought prone areas where nothing else grows well. Millet can also be harvested only 45-65 days after planting. Through the centuries Millet spread its way through Europe and was most often eaten boiled whole as porridge but was sometimes made into a flat bread which the Egyptians first developed.
Millet is a gluten free grain and is the only grain that retains its alkaline properties after being cooked, which is ideal for people with wheat allergies. With a texture much like brown rice, millet can be used in pilafs, casseroles or most oriental dishes that call for rice, quinoa or buckwheat. It can be ground into flour and used in flat breads or mixed up to 25% with wheat flour for use in yeast breads. After it has been soaked for a couple of hours, millet in its whole grain form cooks like rice in about 20 minutes. Millet cooks well into vegetable loaves and adds body to soups and stews. Millet added dry to your biscuit, brad and roll doughs adds a crunchy texture and brings variety to your baked goods.