Ragi is an annual cereal plant growing up to 0.3 m (1 ft) in height in India and Africa. It is a nutritionally rich plant with a number of medicinal properties. Eleusine coracana – as the herb is botanically known – is also called kurakkan, finger millet, goose grass, and African millet. Other names of ragi are kelvaragu and kayppai in Tamil, taidalu in Telangana, panjapulle in Malayalam, nachani in Marathi, maduva in some parts of North India, and osgras in Afrikaans. Finger millet flour is commonly used as food and it is prepared by grinding the seeds in a mill or food processor.
Place of Origin:
Ragi is considered to be of Indian or African origin. It is cultivated widely in East Africa and tropical Asia, mainly in the rainy slopes. It is also cultivated in the upland area of the Himalayas at an elevation of 2,300 m. India is the largest cultivator of ragi, which is primarily grown in the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh. Among the Indian states that produce ragi, Karnataka is the largest producer, accounting for 58% of the country’s production.
The ragi plant grows well in light, sandy, or medium soils, and also in heavy clay soils. It can grow in well-drained soil, as well as soil that is nutritionally poor. It is able to grow in soils which are saline, acidic, neutral, or alkaline. It prefers moist soils, but it cannot grow in shade.
100 g of ragi straw contains:
Proteins – 3.7g
Carbohydrate – 87.3g
Fat – 0.9 g
Fiber – 35.9 g
Ash – 8.1 g
Sodium – 260 mg
Calcium – 1110 mg
Potassium – 1500 mg
100 g of ragi flour contains:
Protein – 7.6 g
Fat – 1.1g
Total Carbohydrate – 76.2 g
Fiber – 33.6 g
Ash – 15.1 g
The herb also yields hydrocyanic acid.
Some of the other varieties of Ragi are:
Eleusine indica – It is an invasive species grown in hot climates. This variety is used mainly during times of starvation.
Eleusine floccifolia – Its habitat is roadsides and wherever it is introduced. It is found growing in Kenya, Somalia, Yemen, and Ethiopia.
Eleusine jaegeri – It is a densely tufted perennial plant growing at a height of 120-150 cm. The annual rainfall for the growth of this variety should exceed 625 mm.
Eleusine multiflora – It grows in deciduous bush land and in the disturbed ground of grassland. It provides good-quality grazing on rich soils.
A few other varieties are Eleusine tristachya, Eleusine intermedia, Eleusine tristachya, and Eleusine Africana.
For many people of India and Sri Lanka, ragi is the principal cereal food. Over 2.5 million hectares of ragi are cultivated annually in India. Even though it does not enter the international market, it is a very important cereal in the areas of adaptation.
Generally, ragi is ground into flour and sold. It is used for making porridge, puddings, and cakes. Other popular dishes are ragi balls and ragi idli. Ragi dosa can be prepared with ragi flour.
Many hard-working people of Tamil Nadu consume ragi as their primary diet, as it provides sustaining energy to those who consume it. It is a wholesome food, especially for diabetic patients. Ragi kanji (porridge) is strengthening, as the cereal is also rich in calcium. To prepare the kanji, boil a cup of water and add ragi flour to it. Then add a pinch of salt and let it cool. This can also be consumed along with a glass of buttermilk. This will not only cool the body, but also will give enormous strength.
Ragi is rich in fiber and it helps in reducing cholesterol levels. Eating ragi balls every day will help in reducing weight. It is a very good food for babies who have not yet begun solid foods. It is one of the best baby foods of India, which helps in making the children stronger.
The seed is cooling, tonic and astringent. It is used in the treatment of hepatitis, fever and biliousness. Ragi straw is used as a valuable fodder for both milking animals and working animals. The grains of the herb are used for making fermented drinks or beer. The leaf juice of ragi is given to the women during childbirth.
Research studies have shown that the plant acts as a diuretic, diaphoretic, and vermifuge. Studies have also proved that ragi can be used for treating pneumonia, liver disease, leprosy, smallpox, measles, and pleurisy.
People who are allergic to milk can consume ragi as a substitute, as it is rich in calcium, iron and thiamine. Regular consumption of ragi also helps to prevent malnutrition, premature aging, and degenerative diseases.
Ragi acts as a good laxative and it relieves patients suffering from constipation. It is also found to be good for obese patients, because it is digested slowly and glucose is released into the blood slowly. Roasted green ragi cures liver diseases, asthma, heart problems, and high blood pressure. It is also given to lactating women to increase milk secretion and to increase their hemoglobin levels.
Ragi has a good combination of all the required amino acids. This helps in tissue repair, improves the metabolic rate of the body, relieves migraines, aids optimal muscle coordination, and helps in reducing bad cholesterol.
Ragi is very popular due to its high content of proteins, minerals, and fats.
ragi rotiRagi seeds are valued for their excellent storage properties. The seeds can be stored for nearly 50 years without damage and this preserved food may be used during times of famine.
The seeds are mostly in demand due to their high nutritional value. They include lecithin and amino acids such as methionine, which eliminates excessive fat from the liver and promotes good health.
Recipe for the famous Ragi Roti:
3 cups ragi flour
2 cups hot water
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 medium red onion, chopped
A few curry leaves
Salt to taste
Boil the water and add to the flour. Add cumin, onion, curry leaves, and salt.
Mix this all together and close the container for 10 minutes, so that the steam of the hot water softens the flour. Mix in a small amount of oil until the dough is soft.
Grease a flat griddle with oil and spread the dough in a circular motion. Cover the pan and cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Do not overcook, as the roti may get hard. Serve hot.