Gangdolari Foxtail Millet

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강돌아리

Gangdolari is a traditional variety of non glutinous millet (Setaria italica Beuv) of the Jeju Island. The Jeju word “gangdolari” is thought to express the millet’s comparatively stronger characteristics that are like a dol (stone). However, the name’s exact origin is unknown, and it is thought that it may just have been called that beginning a long time ago in the Jeju language.

Among the varieties of millets cultivated on Jeju Island, glutinous millets were typically more useful but non-glutinous millets became a staple food on the island. Among non-glutinous millets, gangdolari’s unique flavor was better than the other varieties. In the middle mountainous region of Jeju Island, gangdolari was directly sown at the end of May and the earheads were harvested in the middle of September. After the harvested earheads were fully dried, they were threshed, and carefully selected for storage. The stored millet was dehusked and used as it is needed. While it was previously possible to cultivate gangdolari in middle mountain and coastal field regions, it is currently not being cultivated at all.

Gangdolari is over 130cm tall and has white sides and leaves. The earhead is yellow, cone shaped, and over 20cm in length. The awns are not long, and the grain’s color is yellow as well.
This millet variety called gangdolari had been grown for a long time by the couple Haeok Yang and Hyeongjun Gang at the farm located at Eoeum-ri, Aewol-eup, Jeju-si, Jeju Island and was rediscovered in the Spring of 2021. This couple has been farming for over seventy years and started when they were young. Gangdolari was grown for many years but was not cultivated for about three years prior to the rediscovery. The seeds were in storage and were sewn again in 2021 which saved the nearly extinct species.

Since ancient times, farmers on Jeju Island primarily did dry field farming rather than wet paddy farming. Since Jeju is a mountainous volcanic island, water drains easily and storing water was difficult. Therefore, wet paddies were rare. In the dry fields, foxtail millet, common millet, barley, beans, and wheat were grown. Among those grains, millet was the second most important after barley, followed by beans and red beans. Until around 1950 millet cultivation was high, but it gradually declined after that. During that time, millet farming occupied important positions. Millet has strong nutrient absorption ability and excellent ability to adapt to difficult growing conditions such as barren soil so yielding ability was high. On Jeju, the one-year two crop cycle system of traditional cultivation method was used to grow millet after the barley.

Since ancient times, farmers on Jeju Island primarily did dry field farming rather than wet paddy farming. Since Jeju is a mountainous volcanic island, water drains easily and storing water was difficult. Therefore, wet paddies were rare, and farms were mostly dry fields. In the dry fields, foxtail millet, common millet, barley, beans, and wheat were grown. Among those grains, millet was the second most important after barley, followed by beans and red beans. Until around 1950 millet cultivation was high, but it gradually declined after that. During that time, Jeju Island primarily farmed in dry fields, so millet farming occupied important positions. Millet has strong nutrient absorption ability and excellent ability to adapt to difficult growing conditions such as barren soil so yielding ability was high.

In the Jeju folk tale Segyeongbonpuri, it is said that Jacheongbi brought millet, along with the other four grains, to Jeju Island. Millet is also mentioned in the the Jeju Island farmer’s song “Jobat Bamneun Norae” (The Song of Walking on the Millet Fields). Millet, along with barley and wheat, can be grown twice a year so it has long been a staple food for making cooked grains or porridge and important for the survival of the Jeju people. In addition, it was the most common grain used in place of rice when making tteok (rice cakes) and sul (alcohol) since rice was so precious. As the elders say, “Even though it’s just millet, if we can eat it then it’s good,” which expresses the Jeju people’s mindset and way of living well.

Nonglutinous millet was traditionally used for bap (cooked grains), juk (porridge), and mieum (gruel). Gamjeo (sweet potato) was also added in jobap (cooked millet, called ‘jopap’ in Jeju dialect). Juk made from non-glutinous millet was said to be delicious and easy to digest. In particular, it was said that when a person was ill and could not eat well then eating juk that was boiled until it was water-like and nearly mieum (soup) was effective for restoring one’s energy and aiding digestion. Among the native species of non-glutinous millet on Jeju Island, gangdolari was known as the most delicious.

Until the 1970s millet was an important food crop on Jeju but, beginning in the 1980s, rice began to flow into the island from the mainland. The staple food shifted to rice resulting in millet farming rapidly disappearing on the island. After that the demand for not only millet, but also barley, buckwheat and other grains rapidly declined. The amount of arable land on the island also declined. Since the 1970s, gamgyul (tangerines) farming expanded in the Seogwipo region and gamgyul became a cash crop. At the same time, grain cultivation for self-subsistence farming decreased as well. As a result, several native crops and varieties on Jeju Island are currently on the verge of extinction.

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Territory

StateSouth Korea
Region

Jeju-do

Other info

Categories

Cereals and flours

Nominated by:Kim Minsoo