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Lost Crops of Africa: Volume I, Grains
thickest cereal porridges takes only a small quantity of flour from germinated sorghum or finger millet. When this flour and the porridge are heated slowly, the amylase enzymes hydrolyze the gel-like starch in the porridge so that it collapses and can no longer hold water. In this way, sprouted sorghum and finger millet can turn a pasty porridge semiliquid in minutes.
Moreover, the food not only thins down, it becomes, to a certain extent, predigested so that it is easier for the body to absorb. In addition, the enzymes hydrolyze not only the starches but some of the proteins as well. They also reduce antinutritional and flatus-producing factors, improve the availability of minerals, and enhance some of the food's vitamin content. Further, the malting process imparts sweetness and flavor that makes for a tasty end product.
Considering the extent of malnutrition, it is more than ironic that individuals throughout Africa know more about this process than people anywhere else in the world. Indeed, throughout sub-Saharan Africa, millions of homes have a crock in the corner that contains malted grain. A small sample of the contents would transform thick porridges into baby foods sufficiently liquid for children to consume and sufficiently nutrient-dense to keep them healthy. Tests have shown that adding a little germinated cereal while a porridge is being prepared doubles the amount of food energy and nutrients a child can ingest. However, at present the malt is used only to make beer, almost never to prepare weaning foods.
Experiences in Tanzania suggest that the concept of liquefying porridges for baby food is not an impractical dream. In the early 1980s, scientists at the Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre found that small quantities of flour from germinated sorghum or finger millet could be used to thin the traditional viscous porridges.3 They called their product ''Power Flour." When a spoonful was added during cooking, porridges thick enough to hold up a spoon turned liquid within 10 minutes.
The researchers found that mothers in Tanzania's villages were only too willing to use Power Flour. Most of the mothers knew how to prepare germinated cereals for brewing but knew nothing about making foods for their children from them. However, because the procedure was already so well known, they quickly adopted it.4
Although it is ironic (even tragic) that malting is so well known across Africa, it is also an advantage. Using germinated cereal to improve weaning foods is simply a variation on an already widespread
Mosha and Svanberg, 1983.
In fact, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Power Flour (or some barley-based counterpart) could find a place in kitchens worldwide, including the most sophisticated. With an aging world population and in some wealthy countries an intense interest in dieting, liquid diets and highly digestible foods of all kinds are now much in vogue and are the bases of billion-dollar industries.