boost the size of these small grains, add flavor, and produce quality convenience foods with high consumer demand.


Germination also upgrades the quality and taste of cereals. The sprouting process, known as malting, releases amylase enzymes that break starches down into more digestible forms including sugars. The result is to liquefy, sweeten, and raise the nutritional value.

Malting is particularly good for children because they can better assimilate the partially digested nutrients.3 During World War II, government authorities in Great Britain (to mention just one country) seized on malting as a way to prevent childhood malnutrition brought on by wartime food shortages. Malt extract was produced in large amounts and distributed for daily use by children. This thick, dark, pasty material may have looked awful, but children loved its sweet and pleasant taste. It is in fact still sold in parts of the world, not so much as a nutritional supplement but as an everyday food that people buy for its flavor. It is also the key flavoring ingredient in famous foods such as malted milk and Ovaltine®.

Why malting is not more widely used in these days of mass malnutrition is a puzzlement. Perhaps the process is so associated with barley that the two have become almost synonymous, and, because barley will not grow where malnutrition mostly occurs, it is never considered. What has been overlooked, however, is that finger millet and some sorghums are almost as good at malting as barley. Their amylase activity is also high. And they will grow where the malnutrition is rife.

It is perhaps the ultimate irony that malting is practiced every day in many African homes, but the fact that malted grains make fine foods is overlooked.4 Finger millet malt, for example, is great tasting, easily digested, rich in both calcium and sulfur-containing amino acids, and an ideal base for foods for everyone, from the very young to the very old.5 But most of what is made these days is used in fermentations that produce beer (see box, page 168).


For more on this topic, see Appendix D. where the use of malts in preparing weaning foods is discussed.


Villagers are not the only ones who misunderstand malting. Missionaries in more than one country have preached against it in the mistaken belief that malted foods are alcoholic.


Malleshi and Desikachar, 1986a.

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