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Lost Crops of Africa: Volume I, Grains
on black-clay soil in areas that are seasonally flooded. Animals like it, and it is especially well suited for making hay or silage. It is not highly drought tolerant, however.
Because it occurs in almost pure stands, the grain is fairly easy to collect. People sweep a small bowl or calabash through the seedheads during the period when the ripe grains are ready to fall.
Little has been written about this species. However, its grains are also eaten in at least a few parts of Africa. It, too, is liked by animals and can be utilized for hay and silage. The plant prefers heavy soils and is found predominantly on wet sites. It continues producing green shoots well into the dry season, a valuable feature in any desert forage. People weave its long, dried culms (stems) into mats for their houses.
This interesting perennial (also known as Panicum burgii) is found throughout much of tropical Africa, especially the Sudan and Central Africa. Instead of producing a useful grain, it yields a thick syrup, which is used in confections and sweet beverages that are widely enjoyed in Timbuktu and other places.
Along the southern fringes of the Sahara the primary wild cereal is kram-kram (Cenchrus biflorus).14 This annual grass builds massive stands over thousands of hectares of sand plains and stabilized dunes. In earlier times, it was the dominant cereal of both the Sahel and the borderland between the Sahel and the Sahara. In those days it was a more important food than pearl millet, and its grains were milled into flour and made into porridge on a vast scale. As noted earlier, some kram-kram seeds contain 9 percent fat and have perhaps the highest food energy of any cereal. They also have a notably high protein content—21 percent in one recent analysis, or about twice the level found in normal wheat or maize.
Kram-kram15 is now harvested only when other crops fail, but given some attention it might once again become a universal food for the peoples of the northern Sahel. Also, this wild plant might be converted to a useful crop. Domestication could come about quickly, particularly if its grain were enlarged by selection or cross-breeding with other Cenchrus species. The plant grows well on sandy soils. It is a reliable
In older literature this is referred to as Cenchrus catharticus Delile.
Other common names are ''Sahelian sandbur," chevral, and karindja. Tuareg names include karengia, wujjeg, and uzack.