Fests, fun and fields in a year of celebrating millets in Goa

Thanks to the United Nations' declaration of the 'International Year of Millets', the humble cereal saw quite a re-awakening in Goa this year
'Millets' were the focus of the Taj Hotel stall at the ‘Nachneachem Fest’ held in March 2023 at the Government Agriculture Farm, Duler-Mapusa.
'Millets' were the focus of the Taj Hotel stall at the ‘Nachneachem Fest’ held in March 2023 at the Government Agriculture Farm, Duler-Mapusa.Photo: Gomantak Times

Celebrations of the International Year of Millets (IYM 2023) got off to a delayed, but spectacular start in February, 2023. This year’s Carnival saw a float by the Directorate of Agriculture for the first time in the 50-year history of the event in Panjim.

There was a repeat show in Margao two days later. It promoted nachne or finger millet, the main millet crop in Goa. This millet was common in the Goan food culture as bhakri (flat bread) and ambil (a fermented beverage or porridge) for breakfast.

'Millets' were the focus of the Taj Hotel stall at the ‘Nachneachem Fest’ held in March 2023 at the Government Agriculture Farm, Duler-Mapusa.
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MILLET AWARENESS

The oldest 5-star hotel chain in Goa introduced biscuits and cookies into the discourse at the ‘Nachneachem Fest’ on March 12, 2023 at the Government Agriculture Farm, Duler-Mapusa.

In April 2023, photographer Assavri Kulkarni came up with a picture-perfect ice-cream made of sprouted nachne milk!

All this created a ripple effect that found expression at the ‘Made In Saligao’ (MIS) Community Market at Saligao last month when the world descended to Goa for IFFI.

Brownies, made of millets, are delicious and will have you coming back for more.
Brownies, made of millets, are delicious and will have you coming back for more.Photo: Miguel Braganza

At an inter-collegiate competition, hosted by St Joseph Vaz College, Cortalim, students of different colleges came up with imaginative millet products including noodles, bao, brownies and cakes.

The ambil (or amil), a health food has seen a revival this year. For those with a sweet tooth like me, tizan, both in slurry form or gelatinized, is the favoured millet-based food. Satva is similar to tizan in both forms.

'Millets' were the focus of the Taj Hotel stall at the ‘Nachneachem Fest’ held in March 2023 at the Government Agriculture Farm, Duler-Mapusa.
A showcase of millets, music and mangoes at Mudassachem Fest in Goa

Nachne and vari (Proso millet) flakes are a good alternative to popcorn or moong dal as a snack. Laddoos are open to imaginative re-creations and taste better when made with desi ghee from dairy milk.

O’luv, or Olavo Rodrigues, the ace percussionist and mood-setter, composed a special song on nachne for the IYM 2023.

These events have fired the imagination of the youth and got them involved in cooking, baking and eating millet-based products.

'Millets' were the focus of the Taj Hotel stall at the ‘Nachneachem Fest’ held in March 2023 at the Government Agriculture Farm, Duler-Mapusa.
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MILLET AS A CROP

Finger millet can be grown with irrigation or even on residual moisture in low-lying fields. It has the ability to withstand drought and produce a good yield. Its grains have long storage life.

The area under nachne cultivation in Goa has been increased in the monsoon (kharif) season by making seeds available to local farmers. This effort will be continued during the oncoming rabi season.

There is a subsidy of ₹ 20,000 per hectare (10,000 sqm) as an incentive to grow nachne in Goa.

'Ambil', made of millets,  were on display at the ‘Nachneachem Fest’ held in March 2023.
'Ambil', made of millets, were on display at the ‘Nachneachem Fest’ held in March 2023.Photo: Miguel Braganza

After the resounding success of hosting a rice-based sweets and savouries competition at the ‘Harvest Festival’ on Halloween day, the MIS Community Market organisers held a similar competition for millet-based products at the Millets Festival last month.

The venue was the Saligao Institute, located on the old Saligao-Calangute road between Lourdes Convent and the Calangute Police station, a short distance from the CHOGM road. The competition was open to all individuals, and even tourists.

There was also a demo of cooking with millets by Kamal D Fulari. Local vendors had a whole range of millet-based sweets and savouries for sale at the event.

Live entertainment and games, plus a special play area for children were also part of the one-day event.

The author is a former Chairman of the GCCI Agriculture Committee, CEO of Planter's Choice Pvt Ltd, Additional Director of OFAI and Garden Superintendent of Goa University, and has edited 18 books for Goa & Konkan

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