White fonio (Digitaria exilis) is the most important of a diverse group of wild and domesticated Digitaria species that are harvested in the savannas of west Africa, and considered to be the oldest cereal here. Fonio is the smallest of all species of millet. It is one of the primary cereals of southern Sudan and Ethiopia in Africa. It has potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable use of the land.
Fonio has continued to be important locally because it is both nutritious and one of the world's fastest growing cereals, reaching maturity in as little as six to eight weeks. It is a crop that can be relied on in semi-arid areas with poor soils, where rains are brief and unreliable. The grains are used in porridge and couscous, for bread, and for beer.
Some regions in which this crop is important are the Fouta Djallon region of Guinea and the Akposso area of Togo. It is much used in Guinea, where it is eaten at nearly every possible meal.
The small grains make it difficult and time-consuming to remove the husk. Traditional methods include pounding it in a mortar with sand (then separating the grains and sand) or "popping" it over a flame and then pounding it (which yields a toasted color grain; this technique is used among the Akposso).
According to the mythology of the Dogon people of Mali, among whom it is known as pō tolo, the supreme creator of the universe, Amma, made the entire universe by exploding a single grain of fonio, located inside the "egg of the world".
The recipe: Fonio Casserole
•1 cup Fonio
•5 cups vegetable broth
•2 large carrots, diced
•1 large onion, chopped
•450g/1lb cooked garbanzo beans, well rinsed if canned
•1 can chopped tomatoes
•chopped garlic (up to your garlic preferences)
•1 tablespoon cumin
•1 teaspoon cayenne
•2 teaspoons turmeric
•1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
•1/2 cup fresh parsley, mixed in just before serving
Mix everything in a casserole dish, cover, and bake at about 350ºF/180ºC for 35min. Take it out and give it a stir, add some water if it’s looking dry, and put it back in until the carrots are tender, probably about a half an hour depending on the size of your carrot chunks. Let it sit a few minutes (like, while you’re chopping & rinsing your parsley), and add the parsley. Then it's already prepared and it can serve as a side dish for any good meat.