The origin of millet (Panicum miliaceum) is not yet determined with certainty. Wild millet grows in Asia from the Caspian Sea to Mongolia. Millet became a crop in Eastern Asia, in Northern and North-Eastern China. In the early North Chinese civilization proso millet and foxtail millet were the only cereal crops. What is certain is that it came to Europe together with other cereals. About 5,000 B.C. millet reached Eastern Asia and Eastern Europe.
Millet is self-fertilizing, frost sensitive, and needs more warmth than wheat and barley. It tolerates poor environments and tolerates drought as well as rye. Despite this it requires more care than rye. The rye at low temperatures grows ahead of all other plants and is thus less threatened by weeds. Millet only germinates at 8-10 degrees. The small seeds have little reserve substances and the smaller plants thus need more time before they are strong. Seeding takes place after the last night frosts, together with the flowering of elderberries or after the sprouting of oaks.
Millet is a medieval cereal. Millet cooked in milk is sweet-ish and before the time of cheap sugar it was a popular meal. It was displaced by the more productive maize and potato. Millet today has regained some importance together with flax and buckwheat but it’s still a niche crop. The proso millet in the sunny slopes of the Rhine valley grew up to 1000m elevation. Millet is a pretty plant and can grow to one metre height. A conspicuous trait of millet is the variety of flowers. Unnumbered small, round flowers decorate its panicles, which apparently lie single at the end of a small, fragile and curved branch. There are always two paired flowers but only one generates a corn. The thick panicles of crop millet can give the impression of a waterfall, a waterfall of flowers sparkling. During maturity this is also reinforced by the shimmering of the spelt, which surround the corn. Both spelts are cartilage-like, leathern and hard. They shimmer in orange-crème colours. The millet with its panicles resembles that of spelt oat. Its corns however are much smaller, a thousand seeds weight between 4-8 grams. The millet in turn exceeds oat in terms of numbers of seeds, fertility is enormously increased.