What is fonio?
I had never heard of it until a blog post arrived in my inbox this morning. What is being touted as 'the next quinoa' is apparently a species of millet. Interestingly for history buffs like myself, this ancient grain has been found in Ancient Egyptian burial tombs.
How is it grown?
It is mostly grown in sandy soils in Western Africa, produces grain in just 6 to 8 weeks, and is drought-resistant, which sounds perfect for our Aussie climate.
How does the nutrition stack up?
Importantly to coeliacs and the gluten intolerant, fonio is gluten free. Unlike most cereal crops, it has high amounts of the amino acids cystine and methionine. The human body uses cystine to form healthy hair, skin, bones and connective tissue. Methionine is an essential amino acid that supports liver function and is used in the creation of creatine, which is necessary for muscular function. Both amino acids contain sulfur, which is needed to create glutathione, a natural antioxidant. It contains iron, and is richer than other grains in zinc, calcium, magnesium, and manganese.
What does it look and taste like?
Fonio is a tiny grain with a texture similar to couscous and a distinctive rich, nutty flavour. It comes in two varieties, white (Digitaria exilis) and black (Digitaria iburua).
How is it eaten?
Fonio is used as couscous and porridge, and to make bread. I would use it as a rice substitute.
Adoukonou-Sagbadja, H, Schubert, V, Dansi, A, Jovtchev, G, Meister, A, Pistrick, K, Akpagana, K & Friedt, W 2007, 'Flow cytometric analysis reveals different nuclear DNA contents in cultivated Fonio (Digitaria spp.) and some wild relatives in West-Africa', Plant Systematics and Evolution, vol. 267, pp 163-176
Mondoblog 2015, Fonio grains image, <sovide.mondoblog.org/files/2015/08/fonio-grains-15cm150.jpg>
Whole Grains Council 2018, Rediscovering an ancient African millet called Fonio, <wholegrainscouncil.org/blog/2018/04/rediscovering-ancient-african-millet-called-fonio>