Teff or taf is an annual grass, a species of lovegrass native to the northern Ethiopian Highlands of Northeast Africa. It has an attractive nutrition profile, being high in dietary fiber and iron and providing protein and calcium. Some people consider it to have a sour taste. It is similar to millet and quinoa in cooking, but the seed is much smaller, and thus cooks using less fuel.
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Teff is an important food grain in Ethiopia and Eritrea, where it is used to make injera, and less so in India and Australia. (It is now raised in the USA, in Idaho in particular, with experimental plots in Kansas) Because of its small seeds (less than 1 mm diameter), one can hold enough to sow a large area in one hand. This property makes teff particularly suited to a seminomadic lifestyle.
Common names include teff, lovegrass, annual bunch grass (English); Ṭeff/Ṭéff (Amharic, both representing the same sound, an ejective consonant); Ṭaffi/xaffi (oromo, both representing the same sound); Ṭaff (Tigrinya); and mil éthiopien (French). It is also written as ttheff, tteff, thaff, tcheff, and thaft. The word "tef" is connected by folk etymology to the Ethio-Semitic root "ṭff", which means "lost" (because of the small size of the grain).
Teff is believed to have originated in Ethiopia between 4000 BC and 1000 BC. Genetic evidence points to E. pilosa as the most likely wild ancestor. A 19th century identification of teff seeds from an ancient Egyptian site is now considered doubtful; the seeds in question (no longer available for study) are more likely of E. aegyptiaca, a common wild grass in Egypt.
It is adapted to environments ranging from drought stress to waterlogged soil conditions. Maximum teff production occurs at altitudes of 1800 to 2100 m, growing season rainfall of 450 to 550 mm, and a temperature range of 10 to 27 °C. Teff is day length sensitive and flowers best with 12 hours of daylight.