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New Crop FactSHEET


Contributor: Gilbert F. Stallknecht

Copyright © 1997. All Rights Reserved. Quotation from this document should cite and acknowledge the contributor.

  1. Common Names
  2. Scientific Names
  3. Uses
    1. Recipes
  4. Origin
  5. Crop Status
  6. Botany
    1. Physiology
    2. Taxonomy
    3. Morphology and Floral Biology
  7. Ecology
  8. Crop Culture (Agronomy)
  9. Germplasm
  10. Key References
  11. Selected Experts

Common Names

English: Teff, Lovegrass, Annual Bunch Grass, Warm Season Annual Bunch Grass

Ethiopian: Tef

Oromigna: Tafi

Tigrigna: Taf

French: mil éthiopien

The word tef is thought to originate from the Amharic word teffa which means lost, due to small size of the grain or from the Arabic word tahf used by Semites in South Arabia.

Also written as: Ttheff, Tteff, Thaff, Tcheff, Thaft, Tcheff. (ANON 1887)

Scientific Names

Species: Eragrostis tef (Zucc.) Trotter

Synonyms: E. pilosa (L.) P. Beauv. var. tef (Zucc.); E. pilosa (L.) P. Beauv. subsp. abyssinica (Jacq.); E. abyssinica (Jacq.) Link.; Cynodon abyssinicus (Jacq.) Rasp.; Poa cerealis Salisb.; Poa abyssinica Jacquin; Poa tef Zuccagni

Family: Poaceae


Teff is grown primarily as a cereal crop in Ethiopia. The grain is ground into flour, fermented and made into enjera a sour-dough type flat bread, (ingredients and preparation described by Ebba 1975). Teff is eaten as porridge or used as an ingredient of home-brewed alcoholic drinks. Teff is also grown for livestock forage. In Ethiopia teff straw from threshed grains are considered to be an excellent forage, superior to straws from other cereal species. Teff straw is also utilized to reinforce mud or plasters used in the construction of buildings.


Recipes for injera and other baking and cooking uses for teff have been included in "The Splendid Grain" cookbook. (R. Wood 1997). The following recipes were included in the teff grain packages marketed by Arrowhead Mills, Herford, Texas. Arrowhead Mills no longer markets teff, however they have extended the courtesy to allow the publication of their recipe brochure.

Teff is a very versatile seed. Uncooked Teff can be added to most kinds of baked goods or substituted for part of the seeds, nuts, or small grains. Because of its small size and high density, use less Teff than the amount of other grain or seed for which it is substituted. One half cup Teff can be used to replace 1 cup of sesame seeds. Cooked Teff is gelatinous and adds body to puddings and icebox pies. It is a good thickener for soups, stews, and gravies. Its mild, slightly molasses-like sweetness makes Teff easy to include. Use the ideas in these recipes to include Teff in many of your favorite breads, biscuits, cookies, cakes, stir fry dishes, casseroles, soups, stews, and puddings.


1 cup cooked Teff
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 cup Arrowhead Mills Multigrain Pancake Mix
1 cup water or enough to make pancake batter
1 egg (optional)
1 tbsp. Oil (optional)

Mix all ingredients. Cook on a hot, oiled griddle.
Serve with your favorite syrup.

Hush Puppies

1/2 cup Yellow Cornmeal
1/2 cup Unbleached White Flour
2 tbsp. uncooked Teff
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. low sodium baking powder
pinch pepper
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 tbsp. honey

Combine all ingredients. Drop by the teaspoonful and deep fry in hot oil.

Teff-Carob Cookies

3/4 cup Rice Flour
1/4 cup Barley Flour
1-1/2 tbsp. carob powder
1/4 cup uncooked Teff
1/4 cup molasses or maple syrup
1/2 cup water or milk
1/4 tsp. almond extract

Mix dry ingredients. Mix liquids. Combine mixtures. Drop small spoonfuls onto oiled baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 8-10 minutes.

Teff Oat Bran Muffins

1/2 cup Arrowhead Teff
1/4 cup boiling water
2 cup Arrowhead Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1/2 cup Arrowhead Oat Bran
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
1/2 cup honey
2 tbsp. Arrowhead Sesame Oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tbsp. grated orange rind

Preheat oven to 375°F. Oil muffin tin. In a mixing bowl, pour boiling water over Teff. Stir to moisten all Teff. Set aside. In another mixing bowl mix flour, Oat Bran, baking soda, and salt. When the Teff mixture is cool, stir in honey, oil, buttermilk, egg, and grated orange rind. Add to dry ingredients. Mix with a few quick strokes, spoon into prepared muffin tin and immediately place into preheated oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from tin. Makes 12 muffins.


1 cup cooked and cooled Teff (cooked like cereal omitting raisins)
1 cup tofu
2 to 4 tbsp. maple syrup, honey, or other syrup
1 tsp. vanilla

In a blender combine tofu, sweetener, and vanilla. Blend until smooth and light. Pour cooked Teff and tofu mixture in a bowl. Mix thoroughly, cover, and chill

Variation: Add slices bananas. Serve over Teff-Carob Cookies.

Teff-Peanut Butter Muffins

1/3 to 1/2 cup uncooked Teff
2 cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 tbsp. low-sodium baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup Peanut Butter, Crunchy or Creamy
2 tbsp. Unrefined Safflower Oil
1-1/2 cups water
4 tbsp. molasses, honey, or maple syrup

Stir Teff, flour, baking powder, and salt together. Cut in Peanut Butter and oil with fork or pastry blender until the mixture is like crumbs. Add the water and molases; stir just until well mixed, but do not beat. Fill oiled muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake 12-15 minutes at 350°F or until done.

Teff Burger

1 cup Arrowhead Teff
3 cup water
1 tsp. thyme
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. salt (optional)
3 scallions, chopped
2 tbsp. Arrowhead Sesame Oil
6 slices Jarlsberg Cheese
6 slices tomato
6 lettuce leaves
6 hamburger buns

Place Teff, water, thyme, garlic, and salt in a pan and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir once or twice toward the end of cooking. Spread cooked Teff in a shallow pan to cool. When cooled, add scallions and form patties. Heat a skillet, add oil, and fry until nicely browned. Turn, top with cheese and cook until the bottom is browned and the cheese is melted.
Assemble burgers on buns with lettuce and tomato.
Makes 6 burgers.


Ethiopia is the considered the site of origin of teff. Teff was domesticated in Ethiopia 4000–1000 BC

Crop Status

Teff is an annual grass crop and harvested for grain in Ethiopia. Teff flour is preferred in the production of enjera, a major food staple in Ethiopia. Teff is also grown on a limited basis for livestock forage in other parts of Africa, India, Australia and South America. In the U.S. small acreages of teff are grown for grain production and sold to Ethiopian restaurants (Carlson, Idaho) or utilized as a late planted livestock forage (Larson, Minnesota). The nutritional value of teff grain is similar to the traditional cereals. Teff is considered to have an excellent amino acid composition, lysine levels higher than wheat or barley, and slightly less than rice or oats. Teff contains very little gluten. Teff is also higher in several minerals, particularly iron.



Teff is a C4 annual grass plant having Kranz anatomical characteristics and classified intermediate between tropical and temperate grasses.


Teff belongs to the tribe Eragrosteae, sub-family Eragrostoideae. Teff is a tetraploid plant 2n = 40.

Morphology and Floral Biology

Teff is a warm season annual grass, characterized by a large crown, many tillers, and a shallow diverse root system. Teff germplasm is characterized by a wide variation of morphological and agronomic traits. Plant height varies from 25–135 cm, panicle length 11–63 cm, with spikelets numbers per panicle varying from 190–1410. Panicle types vary from loose, lax, compact, multiple branching multi-lateral and unilateral loose to compact forms. Maturity varies from 93–130 days. Grain color ranges from pale white to ivory white and from very light tan to deep brown to reddish brown purple. Teff seed is very small, ranging from 1–1.7mm long and 0.6–1mm diameter with l000 seed weight averaging 0.3–0.4 grams. Grain and straw yield represented the maximum genetic diversity among the observed teff germplasm (Ketema 1997). Teff is a self pollinating chasmogamous plant. The florets consist of a lemma, palea, 3 stamens , two stigma and two lodicules. Floret colors vary from white to dark brown. Panicle spikelets consist of 2–12 florets.


Teff is adapted to environments ranging from drought stress to water logged soil conditions. Maximum teff production occurs at altitudes of 1800–2100 m, growing season rainfall of 450–550 mm, with a temperature range of 10–27°C. Teff is day length sensitive and flowers best during 12 hours of daylight.

Crop Culture (Agronomy)

Teff can be planted in late May similar to millets. Late plantings have the advantage to control emerged weeds by tillage prior to planting, which can be significant since teff is a poor competitor with weeds during the early growth stages. Seedbed should be firm and prepared similar to planting for alfalfa. Seeding rates are 4.5 to 9.0 kg/ha using implements such as cultipackers or Brillion seeders (Twidwell et al. 1991). Teff should be seeded 12–15 mm deep either broadcast or in narrow rows. Teff germinates rapidly, and the broadcast and narrow row seeding allow for stronger weed competition. Control of broadleaf weeds should be considered, particularly Amaranthus retroflexus redroot pigweed, which produces seed that cannot be separated from teff. Moderate rates of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer are suggested to prevent lodging. Several special considerations must be given to teff harvested for grain. Due to the small seed size, combine seed delivery systems must be checked for gaps and areas through which the small teff seed can be lost. Soil particles must be prevented from going through the combine and into the grain hopper, since it is very difficult if not impossible to separate fine soil particles from the teff grain. Teff grain yield in the U.S. average from 700 kg/ha dryland to 1400 kg/ha irrigated in Montana. (Eckhoff et al. 1993; Stallknecht et al. 1993). Forage yields vary from 9.0 to 13.5 Mg/ha, dependent upon moisture levels during the growing season (Boe et al. 1986; Eckhoff et al. 1993).


Teff grown in Ethiopia is represented by either landrace selections or developed varieties adapted to specific geographic regions (Ebba 1975; Katema 1997). Examples of teff varieties available in the U.S. are Dessie Summer Love Grass (Carlson, Idaho), S.D. 100( Boe et al. 1986), and Bridger (Eckhoff et al.1997). Teff is also grown from selected plant introduction (PI) accessions available from the USDA Western Region Germplasm Center, Pullman, Washington. Small amounts of teff seed from 371 PI accessions are available from the Western Region PI Station 59 Johnson Hall, PO Box 646402, Washington State University, Pullman Washington. The largest number of teff accessions (3842) are housed at the Plant Genetic Resources Centre of Ethiopia (PGRC/E).

Key References

Selected Experts

Arvid Boe
Plant Science Dept.
NPB 244A
Box 2140-C
South Dakota State University
Brooking, South Dakota 57007
Tel. 605-688-4759
Fax 605-688-5542

Vicki L. Bradley
Western Regional Plant Introduction Center
59 Johnson Hall
PO Box 646402
Washington State University
Pullman, Washington 99164
Tel. 509-335-3616
Fax 509-335-6654

Wayne Carlson
The Teff Co.
PO Box A
Caldwell, Idaho 83606
Tel. 208-455-0375
Fax 208-454-3330

Joyce L. Eckhoff
Montana State University
Eastern Ag Research Center
PO Box 1350
Sidney, MT 59270
Tel. 406-482-2208
Fax 406-482-7336

Seyfu Ketema
Biodiversity Institute
PO Box 30726
Addis Abeda, Ethiopia
Fax +251-1-613722/654976

Bob Larson
Larson Farm Service
PO Box 127
Bertha, Minnesota 59437
Tel. 218-924-4595 Office
Fax 218-924-4595 Office
Tel. 218-924-2384 Home

Gilbert F. Stallknecht
Montana State University
Central Agricultural Research Center
HC 90 Box 20
Moccasin, MT 59462
Tel. 406-423-5421
Fax 406-423-5422

Acknowledgement: This fact sheet represents in part information presented in the excellent publication authored by Seyfu Ketema, and the chapter in the "The Lost Crops of Africa, (Natl. Acad. Sci. 1996). These publications are recommended to individuals desiring in depth information on the history of teff and modern day status.

Contributor: Gilbert F. Stallknecht, Montana State University

Copyright © 1997. All Rights Reserved. Quotation from this document should cite and acknowledge the contributor.

Last update Tuesday, February 24, 1998 by aw