[permaculture] Need plant variety ID

Lawrence F. London, Jr. lfl at intrex.net
Mon Sep 4 05:39:52 EDT 2006

Marimike6 at cs.com wrote:

> Lawrence-- Most people who grow millet for bread grow varieties of pearl 
> millet, while bird seed generally contains something called proso millet. Your 
> volunteers may be of both the red and the white varieties of proso-- you won't 
> know until they mature.
> The best way to tell whether your millet is worthwhile to consider as a crop 
> would be to figure out how to remove the chaff, grind it up and make some 
> bread from it. Otherwise it could be useful in attracting birds.
> Here's something on the distinction between proso and pearl:
> http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ncnu02/v5-100.html
> Nutritional differences between the strains can probably be found somewhere 
> on the web. I suspect the main difference with proso is that it can be grown in 
> the Dakotas and upper midwest. Most millet varieties developed for human 
> consumption occur in tropical Africa and Asia.

This is interesting. The article you referenced is great reading.
The three varieties seem to be:
Pearl Millet
Proso Millet
Foxtail Millet

A farmer once planted millet with soybeans on land, part of which is now mine.
Good red silt loam, well prepared and fertilized produced three cuttings that year because
we had exceptional and regular rainfall. It seems the millet was a short plant and I never
noticed any big seedheads; maybe it did not have time to mature as the mix was harvested for hay.
At any rate the millet variety he planted may have been Foxtail. I always thought Foxtail was a weed
and a wild plant that popped up from time to time. I definitely have it out in my fields and it is short
with interesting fuzzy heads and very small seeds. Never thought of it as an economic crop.

As for pearl millet, I wonder how it is hulled in 3rd world countries in communities lacking
mechanical equipment to do the job. You can buy it in natural foods stores and it is delicious cooked
as you would rice, barley and corn grits. Actually a porridge of yellow corn grits and millet would be good eating, with 
complimentary flavors and textures. Add a topping of flaxseed meal and nutritional yeast, a little olive oil,
flaked dulse and some miso tamari and you have the makings of part of an exceptional macrobiotic meal; add miso soup
and you've got a complete meal, balanced nutritionally.

My millet volunteers are probably proso. I never noticed them until recently. The were growing with no irrigation or 
fertilizer in mostly rock dust layered on silt loam; they may have responded well in this high mineral soil. With the 
latest rain after nearly 4 weeks of drought, they took off and grew to over 6 feet with many plants lodging, a known 
problem with this plant.

From: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ncnu02/v5-100.html
" Foxtail millet ranks second in the total world production of millets and it continues to have an important place in 
world agriculture providing approximately six million tons of food to millions of people, mainly on poor or marginal 
soils in southern Europe and in temperate, subtropical, and tropical Asia (Marathee 1993). Its cultivation is successful 
even in areas with low rainfall from sea level up to 2000 m (Oduori 1993). It is cultivated in the US as a catch crop, 
especially for fodder and pet food for caged and wild birds. Foxtail can yield as much as proso, but foxtail seeds are 
generally much smaller "

This is what interests me now, catch cropping with millet, rye grain, barley and crimson clover to build soil and
reduce weed emergence. This mix might work well on newly broken ground to improve tilth.

Now, about safflower. It also comes in birdseed. It would be interesting to grow it, along with sesame, rape and 
sunflower for oil. I'll bet there are home kitchen oil presses available somewhere.


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