But for all that, fermentations have a future and deserve recognition and attention. For one thing, they are very promising for creating weaning foods that may overcome mass malnutrition (see next appendix). For another, lactic acid fermentations are promising as commercial methods of processing and preserving food as well as for creating business enterprises.

PRECOOKING

To help meet the demands of an ever hungrier Africa (not to mention the world), the partial cooking of grains looks particularly promising. When dropped into boiling water, most (perhaps all) of the grains described in the earlier chapters soften within 5 or 10 minutes. The hot water partially gelatinizes the starch so that the dough sticks together and can be rolled into sheets or squeezed into noodles.

Some food technologists have already begun applying such processes to sorghum and pearl millet.7 In the future, precooking might be applied to most of Africa's native cereals to produce top-quality, ready-to-cook foods that are stable, more nutritious, and easy to store.

Below we highlight three techniques—parboiling, flaking, and extruding.

Parboiling8

Parboiling is basically the process of partially cooking grain while it is still in the husk (that is, before any milling). The raw grain is briefly boiled or steamed. (Generally, it is merely soaked in water, drained, and then heated.) Only after the resulting product is dried is it dehusked and decorticated.

What results is very different from the normal milled grain. Sorghum kernels, for instance, come out looking like rice: light-colored, translucent, firm, and intact—attractive in both appearance and aroma and much less sticky than normal. Of course, they still must be cooked to become edible.

Parboiling not only gelatinizes the starch in the grains, it also does the following:

  • Makes the milling process more efficient. (In a recent trial

7  

In this regard, notable work is being done at the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore, Karnataka 570 013, India. There. N.G. Malleshi and his colleagues, although thousands of kilometers from Africa, have been doing work of great possible significance to the future of African grains.

8  

This section is based largely on the paper by R. Young, M. Haidara, L.W. Rooney, and R.D. Waniska. 1990. Parboiled sorghum: development of a novel decorticated product. Journal of Cereal Science 11:277-289.



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