Meet Africa's Wondergrain

 Fonio is the African supergrain that will change the way you think about food. This grain, in size a mix between quinoa and couscous, not only stands out in taste, it also has several amazing health and nutrition benefits. Want to find out how such small grains can pack so much punch? Read on!

Grown mostly in parts of West Africa, Fonio has been around for thousands of years. Natives planted and harvested this grain as a staple crop and major source of sustenance. Farmers devote(d) hundreds of thousands of hectares to its cultivation and it supplies food to millions of people. Africans considered the grain so special that in some places, it was reserved for traditional bride price payment and other such special occasions. It is still considered special and is now imported to other parts of the world.

There are two types of fonio: white fonio and black fonio. White Fonio grows in a considerably short time, between six to eight weeks. Because of its short growth cycle, it is ready for harvest long before other grains and crops, and it helps alleviate the annual “hungry seasons” experienced in some parts of West Africa. Black fonio takes a little longer to grow (between 160-180 days), but both types grow even in areas with poor soil and little irrigation. It has been dubbed one of the world's "best-tasting cereals," and with its size and flavour, it can be ground and mixed with some other flours to make bread; used in porridge and couscous; brewed for beer; eaten as a side dish; used in stir-fry; mixed in with salads; and it can be eaten as cereal. It is also said to be a good replacement for semolina, the wheat product from which pasta is made.

In Nigeria’s predominantly Hausa northern region and in Benin, wusu-wusu, a type of couscous is made out of both types of fonio. In northern Togo, the Lamba people brew tchapalo, a famous beer from white fonio.

Fonio is highly nutritious – its seed contains important amino acids to human health that are not present in enough quantities in other major cereals such as rice, wheat, rye, and barley. This supergrain isn’t only good for humans, it is also sold as animal feed because it is easily digested by goats, sheep, cattle, and other ruminant livestock. Fonio straw is also commonly chopped and mixed with clay for building houses or walls or burned to provide heat for cooking.

Here are some other of Fonio:

  1. Not only is it gluten-free, it also does not have any of the proteins found in gluten, so it’s safe to eat if you have celiac disease.
  2. It’s an energy booster. It is said to offer 3.6 calories per gram, but unlike other grains, it does not spike blood sugar levels.
  3. Fonio contains heart-healthy vitamins and it helps lower the chances of heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases.
  4. Due to its high fibre content, fonio digests easily and eases constipation. It is rich in amino acids, folic acid, and iron. We hear it's eaten in some parts of Africa to treat stomach upset.
  5. And this is our favourite one: fonio prevents hair loss. It strengthens your hair and keeps your skin glowing.
  6. It’s easy to cook and it’s so filling!

With all these benefits, we'll definitely be trying out fonio recipes soon. Superfood? More like wonderfood.