By Leslie Kelly

Teff is one of the tiniest grains on the planet, but its nutritional profile is massive: It's a strong source of Vitamin B-6, calcium, iron, and protein. Maybe you've never heard of teff, but its gluten-free appeal means it's is on track to join sorghum, amaranth, and quinoa as ancient grains that have gone from obscure to pantry staples. Bob's Red Mill sells the whole grain in supermarkets across the country and online. Here's all you need to know about this tiny super grain.

Photo by Leslie Kelly

Out of Africa

Teff is a grass that has roots dating back 10,000 years in the land now known as Ethopia. It also goes by the name lovegrass, possibly because it's so prolific, farmers must love to grow it. In ideal conditions, one pound of seeds can produce one ton of grain in 12 weeks. It's harvested earlier, when it's destined to be used to feed horses, cattle, and other livestock, in a product that's similar to hay. While it was once exclusively grown in Africa, teff is now cultivated across the globe, including in the U.S. and Australia. The most common varieties of teff are ivory and brown.

Photo via Wikepedia

How to Cook with Teff

Teff is highly prized for its versatility, showing up in everything from beer to bread. Adventurous diners might have eaten teff without realizing it, as it's the main ingredient in the spongy, fermented flatbread served in Ethiopian restaurants called injera. Injera doubles as a utensil; it's used to scoop up bites of fiery stews (also known as wats or wots).

Teff's mild, slightly nutty flavor also makes it a good candidate to be cooked like rice or quinoa and then folded into pilaf or used as a foundation for building a grain bowl. Whole grain teff can be ground into flour in a spice grinder or a blender before being used as a stand-in for wheat flour in quick breads, muffins, and cookies.

Here are a few recipes that showcase teff's amazing qualities:

Gluten-Free Teff Crackers

Studded with seeds -- flax, sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin -- this flavor-packed snack is surprisingly easy to make. (No rolling out any dough! Just mix and pour onto a baking sheet.)

Photo by Timbo

Gluten-Free Muffins

Brown rice flour and arrowroot starch team up with teff for a moist muffin so good that one reviewer raved: "You don't have to be gluten-free to enjoy these muffins." Blueberries can be added instead of mashed bananas.

Photo by Buckwheat Queen

The Best Gluten-Free Brownies Ever... Seriously

Another winner that could pass for a classic version of everybody's favorite fudge-y treat. While it's tempting to dive in as soon as these fragrant brownies emerge from the oven, let them cool completely before cutting for the neatest squares.

Photo by Buckwheat Queen

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