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Ancient Future Foods: The Food Trends of Our Ancestors Might Just Ensure the Future of Our Planet

Most current food obsessions at Michelin-star restaurants are centuries old.

You shop at the local farmers market – mostly seasonal and always in the organic section. Heck, you even know the name of most of the people that grow your produce. Thumbs up for effort, but darling, your habits are so 2000.

Enter 2017. Michelin star restaurants serve insects on sticks and the hottest food trend of the year (after unicorn milkshakes) is the humble millet.

From Africa, the Americas to the Asian rice belt that runs through India, Thailand and on to Korea – our planet was once abundant with various millets. Discovered and grown by sheepherders of the vast Mongolian steppe some 7,500 years ago, they grew millets because of the grain’s short growing season: only 45 days. They helped spread the seed all the way through Asia, Russia and everywhere in between. Even Japan, which has been subsisting on rice since 400 BC, grows millet and occasionally mixes the two to make the rice “fuller”.

The holy triad of corn, wheat and rice that has ruled plates around the world since the advent of industrial farming, today contributes to more than half of all calories consumed by humans worldwide. In the US, corn now uses more land and water than any other crop and the chemicals used to sustain it have resulted in the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

In contrast, foxtail millet thrives with 4 inches or less of annual rainfall. Take teff, an Ethiopian grain that is hardier, more drought-tolerant and more nutritious than wheat. It can be grown in both water-logged and water-stress conditions. No need for any chemicals, either.

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