Plate 1; Seed, Plate 27, Fig. 1.
Botanical description: Common Millet is an annual, generally from two to four feet high. The stems are erect or ascending from a decumbent base, rather stout and covered with outstanding hairs. The leaves, which are also hairy, are flat and broad. The flowers are in large panicles, which are often drooping and contain a great number of spikelets. As a rule these are bright green, but occasionally they have a blackish or purplish tint. Each spikelet contains a single flower with a bright red pistil.
History: The wild plant from which the cultivated Common Millet originated is not known; its cultivation goes further back than history. The Swiss lake dwellers grew it as early as 2000 B.C. and it has also been traced to the lake dwellings of Italy. It is cultivated in eastern and southern Europe, and is of great importance in east and south Africa. It was introduced into America rather early, but has never been extensively grown in Canada.
Varieties: Like all other long-cultivated plants, Common Millet occurs in a large number of varieties, differing from each other especially in the shape and structure of the panicle and the colour of the seed. In some the panicle is open and erect, in others it is compact and headlike. Broom Corn Millets have a spreading and drooping panicle which resembles the seed cluster of Broom Corn. The names of other varieties, such as White and Red French, refer to the colour of the seed.
Agricultural value: Common Millet is better suited for human food than any other of the millets mentioned. It is largely grown for that purpose in the eastern parts of the Old World. Before the potato was known it furnished the main part of the poor man's food in central Europe. At present it is of practically no importance there as food for the people. In North America it is used exclusively as a forage plant.
When intended for hay it is important to cut it at the right time.
*This plant is the Common Millet of Europe, grown there from time immemorial. Some confusion has arisen from the fact that what is sometimes called Common Millet in America is not the Common Millet of Europe but is a Foxtail Millet, in Canada chiefly the Hungarian variety.
Plate Common Millet ( Panicum miliaceum L.).
It has its highest nutritive value when in bloom; after that the quality of the hay deteriorates rapidly. When sown for hay or pasture, thirty pounds of seed should be used per acre; when grown for seed, twenty pounds are sufficient.
Seed: The seeds of Common Millet are considerably larger than those of the Foxtail Millets. They are about one-eighth of an inch long, ovate, somewhat flattened, with the outer side more convex than the inner, shiny and differently coloured in different varieties. The ordinary colours are white, red, yellow, brown, grey and black. The seed of Japanese Panicle Millet, which is the most widely grown variety of Common Millet in Canada, weighs sixty pounds to the bushel.
Even though the earth lie waste and barren, it may still declare its nature; since a soil productive of beautiful wild fruits can by careful tending be made to yield fruits of the cultivated kind as beautiful. - Xenophon, The Economist, 434-355 B.C.
Many persons, for the more effectual protection of millet, recommend that a bramble-frog should be carried at night round the field before the hoeing is done, and then buried in an earthen vessel in the middle of it. If this is done, they say, neither sparrows nor worms will attack the crop. The frog, however, must be disinterred before the millet is cut; for if this is neglected, the produce will be bitter. It is pretended, too, that all seeds which have been touched by the shoulders of a mole are remarkably productive.- Pliny, Natural History, 23-79.
Be suer of hay, and of provender some, For labouring cattle, till pasture be come. And if ye do mind, to have nothing to sterve, Have one thing or other, for all things to serve.
- Thomas Tusser, Five Hundreth Pointes of Husbandrie, 1557.
A soil that is blackish and rich under the entered ploughshare, and whose mould is loose and crumbling, for this we aim at in ploughing, is generally best for corn..............That land which exhales thin mists and flying vapour, and drinks in the moisture, and emits it at pleasure; and which, always green, clothes itself with its own grass, and does not hurt the ploughshare with scurf and salt rust..............that, you will find by experience, to be both suitable for cattle and fitted for agriculture. - Virgil, Georgics. 37 B.C.
It is a world also to see how manie strange hearbs, plants and annuall fruits are dailie brought unto us from the Indies, Americans, Taprobane, Canarie Iles, and all parts of the world: the which, albeit that in respect of the constitutions of our bodies they doo not grow for us, because that God hath bestowed sufficient commodities upon everie countrie for hir owne necessitie; yet for delectation sake unto the eie, and their odoriferous savours unto the nose, they are to be cherished, and God to be glorified also in them, because they are his good gifts, and created to doo man help and service. - William Harrison, 1593.