others who know it well. What has hardly been appreciated, however, is that most of Africa's grains also pop. While less spectacular than popcorn, they do expand dramatically and they, too, take on an agreeable toasty flavor. In the future, popped forms of sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet, fonio, and perhaps other grains could find extensive usage.

As has been mentioned previously (pages 43 and 177), people in India already pop sorghum and finger millet on a large, and sometimes commercial, scale. They often mix together milk, brown sugar (jaggery), and popped finger millet to create a very pleasant dessert. Popped finger millet is also used in brewing.

For finger millet, as well as for Africa's other cereals, popping seems to offer many benefits. It is a promising way to increase the grain size, create ready-to-eat foods, and add flavor to what are often bland dishes. Something similar is happening in the United States with amaranth. This former staple of the Aztecs and Incas is making a comeback, largely as a popped snack food. Recently, a continuous popper designed to handle amaranth's extremely small seeds was patented.1 Such a device may well be the key to commercially popping Africa's small-grain cereals as well.

Once the popped grains are available, many new foods are likely to be created. Indian food scientists have blended popped finger millet with legumes such as puffed chick pea or toasted green gram to form nutritious and very tasty new foods.2 In Africa, something similar might be done using legumes such as peanut, cowpea, or bambara groundnut.


The process of puffing, a variant on popping, was discovered almost a century ago. Since then, cereals made from puffed rice and puffed wheat have been breakfast staples worldwide. Puffed oats and maize are now also produced.

In the puffing process the grain is placed in a sealed chamber and heated until the pressure rises. Then the chamber, or puffing ''gun," is suddenly opened. Relieved of the pressure, the water vapor expands, blowing up the grains to many times their original size (for wheat, 8-16 times; for rice, 6-8 times). Finally, they are toasted and dried until crisp.

Puffing has probably never been attempted with African rice, fonio, tef, or the other African grains, but it is another possible way to


The machine was developed by Edward S. Hubbard, American Amaranth, Inc., Bricelyn, Minnesota.


Information from H.S.R. Desikachar.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement