Israeli women prepare traditional Ethiopian food. (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90) Yossi Zamir/Flash 90
Ethiopian food

Hebrew University researchers are developing Ethiopian teff seeds, which could be the world’s next superfood.

By United with Israel Staff

Teff is a grain that has remained a staple in the Ethiopian diet for thousands of years, serving as the key ingredient in a sour flatbread called “injera.”

Now, Hebrew University (HU) researchers are bringing this protein-rich, gluten-free grain to Israel.

Full of amino acids, minerals, fiber, and protein, teff can grow in far-from-optimal conditions and regions that suffer from drought, reported the Israeli innovation website NoCamels.

The new superfood was described in that report as a “quinoa for the 2020s.”

Bringing teff from Africa to the Holy Land is no small feat, however, according to HU’s Professor Yehoshua (Shuki) Saranga, who is working to develop teff as a viable crop for commercial farming in Israel.

“The problem is that 95 per cent of the world’s teff is grown in Ethiopia, and very little of it is available for export,” reported NoCamels. “The [Ethiopian] government actually banned all foreign sales of teff between 2006 and 2015 to make sure there was enough for its own population and even now exports are at a very low level.”

Saranga and his team seek to meet the needs of Israel’s 160,000-plus Ethiopian community, who continue to make inerja and often share this taste of Ethiopia with other Israelis.

“This season, we have teff fields growing in Israel with our seeds from the Golan Heights down to Yotvata (kibbutz in the southern Negev). So it can grow all throughout Israel,” Saranga told NoCamels.

Saranga added, “And what we are trying to do is actually develop it into a modern crop that would be more suitable to Israeli agriculture as well as to other Western countries.”

While the Ethiopian government refused to provide a single teff seed to Saranga, he continued his research using seeds collected over 100 years ago, stored in deep-freeze gene banks.

Saranga hopes that within five years, teff will be a commercially available gluten-free grain sold for an affordable price in Israel and other countries around the world.

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