“Focus your mind, and cultivate this crop; at the proper time, make this your purpose.”
- Sri Guru Granth Sahib
My carrot-farmer friend's Millet was ready for harvesting recently, and after recalling my mania for wanting to sketch his carrot flowers, he brought me a couple of stalks of Millet, saying he thought of me before the combine harvesters moved in! What a great guy! After cleaning and cutting them down a bit, I immediately put them in a tall pot in the corner of my dining room, where they stood for a couple of weeks. They also make a beautiful dried arrangement, provided you don't move the vase and release thousands of seeds all over the floor!
Pearl Millet (or Babala, and also known as "Manna") is agriculturally very important in South Africa and is used as forage and grazing for cattle, as it has a high percentage of soluble sugar in the stems. It is an indigenous, annual spike grass and is remarkably like maize, with a robust, erect culm that supports gracefully re-curved leaves of up to 1,5m long. The plants can reach a height of about 5m, but is usually 2,5-3m high. Leaves are a pleasant light green colour and inflorescences are purple and spike-shaped and densely covered with closely packed grains (their fruit), each containing a single, yellowish-grey, oval seed with a pointed base.
It flowers from early spring to autumn (August to April) and is also drought-resistant, requiring as little as 250mm rainfall per year to flower.
Apart from being agriculturally planted, it occurs in patches in KwaZulu Natal, Gauteng and Mpumalanga.