Dehusking small millets – its what we retain that matters

Cereal grains that we eat in the form of rice have a husk that we cannot digest. We need to remove this outer most layer to bring it to a form where as much of the nutrition in the grain is made accessible to our bodies. This process of removing the husk is called dehusking, sometimes also referred to as hulling.

Getting the dehusking right, means retaining as much of the nutrition in the grain and conveying it to the consumer. The primary nutrition expected from cereal grains is its carbohydrate content. The carbohydrate content in cereal grains is what gives us energy. Other than the carbohydrate contents cereal grains also offer us an opportunity to get a good proportion of our fiber, minerals and fatty acids requirement. These three are found not in the endosperm, the hard part of the rice kernel. It is almost entirely present in the surrounding bran layer.

A sketch showing the different parts of a typical husked cereal grain
A sketch showing the different parts of a typical husked cereal grain

Let’s look at the structure of a small millet grain. The outermost layer of the grain is the cellulose rich husk, within that we find the bran layer and further within is the hard rice kernel. The protein rich germ of the grain, the point from where the seed would germinate, is a small spot towards one edge of the endosperm. This is a simplified description of the structure, in some grains, there are multiple layers of husk, in some the germ might be within a recess in the endosperm, but broadly speaking, all husked cereal grains such as paddy, foxtail  millet, kodo m., little m., proso m., brown top m., etc. can be approximated to have such a structure.

Now, if the carbohydrate rich endosperm is consumed without the fiber, mineral and fatty acid rich bran, it results in a lot of energy being absorbed too soon by our body. Do this multiple times during the day on a regular basis and we end up compromising our digestive system and making it more prone to various GI and lifestyle diseases. Retaining the fibers helps exercise our digestive system, and leads to a much slower absorption of the carbohydrates by our body. The minerals and fatty acids provide much needed nourishment and also add to the taste and texture of the cooked rice.

As one can expect a structure that is rich in fibers will be fairly flaky and not very hard or dense. So the challenge of getting dehusking right, is essentially the challenge of  removing the hard and stiff outer husk while retaining as much of the soft and flaky bran layer just within it.

Some of you might have already recognized that the rice kernel with its germ and bran removed is the white (aka polished) paddy rice that one typically finds in the market. As I shared in an earlier post, I refer to these as bleached rice – there’s nothing polished about them. So how does one get dehusking right, i.e. get natural bran rich millet (or paddy) rice and not end up with bleached rice? I shall share my experience and what I have learned in the next few posts.

7 thoughts on “Dehusking small millets – its what we retain that matters

  1. Would like to know the agricultural practices of millets.
    So also how we can dehusk the millets produced without loosing the bran.

    Please send me contact details of agencies/ persons from whom I can get millets for sowing

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    1. The agri practices of millets are vast, it would be possible to share if there is something specific you are looking for. We can dehusk millet grains and retain a good portion of the bran by using existing machines (with a few modifications) and following a specific process flow (more here: https://themillet.org/tag/process-flow). I shall be sharing some photos of the millet rice we have been able to process shortly.

      To get millets for sowing, please let us know the region you are seeking to start cultivation in so that we can try to connect you to groups working near by. For seeds developed by universities and research centers, pl contact the Indian Institute for Millet Research (https://millets.res.in).

      Apologies for the long delayed reply. Hope you had a good cultivation season since you posted your query… and that the ongoing season is a good one as well.

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  2. Have you done the next part in this series? If yes, pl. share the link and if not, then we are looking forward.

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    1. Dear Sir, we have been working on many different aspects over the past couple of years. Apologies for the long silence … we will try to update the content on the website over the next few weeks and months. In case you are seeking some specific information, please let us know and we shall prioritize the same.

      thank you !

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    1. Dear Sir, there is a set of millet processing machines installed by the Post Harvest Dept. in UAS, Bangalore (GKVK). I am not sure if it is in a usable condition. Other than that I do not know of any place where we can take millet grains and get them processed into their respective rice form. There are a couple of units in Tumkur dt. and one or two in Ramanagara dt. but I do not have concrete information that might be of help to you. Sorry … and apologies for the delayed reply.

      In case you were able to process your grains, do share where and when you got it done. thank you !

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