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Lost Crops of Africa: Volume I, Grains
technology—not a strange foreign food or technique to be imposed by an outside authority. Local, national, and international efforts to stimulate appreciation of this could see a new level of weaning foods sweep across Africa with little outside involvement. The key in many areas may be to educate village brewmasters to the potential of a second product from their ongoing malting operations.
Sorghum is the most widely available malting grain in Africa, and it has been used in most of the nutritional experiments so far. However, finger millet is a better choice: it has a higher amylase activity; it has no tannins; it develops no potentially toxic materials on germination;5 it is rich in calcium and methionine, both of which are needed for child growth; its malt has a pleasant aroma and taste; and, finally, it does not mold or deteriorate during germination.
Considering the fact that the technology and raw materials are common in most village situations, why has this immensely beneficial practice not been more widely used? For one thing, the process of germinating grain does take some time; mothers, already weighed down with burdensome work loads, tend to reject anything that takes up more of their day. However, germinated flour need not be produced daily. Indeed, small portions can be set aside whenever a fresh batch of beer is begun. In addition, as in the case of Tanzania's Power Flour, the malt could be made centrally and sold widely. Unlike the weaning foods themselves, it is a stable, concentrated material that is used only a pinch at a time.
The fermentation of cereals by lactic-acid-producing bacteria has been discussed in the previous appendix. It, too, appears to be a way to prepare weaning foods. Like malting, fermentation is a household-level food technology that reduces the viscosity of stiff porridges (although not as much and not in minutes). It raises the levels and bioavailability of proteins, vitamins, and minerals. It enriches the foods through the synthesis of some B vitamins, and it adds flavor. On top of all that, it helps protect the foods from diarrhea-causing microorganisms.
As has been noted in Appendix C, lactic fermentation is practiced throughout the world to make pickles, sauerkraut, soy sauce, sourdough bread, and other popular foods, but it is especially well known in Africa. From Senegal to South Africa "sour" porridges are popular.
Certain sorghums on sprouting show a marked increase in hydrocyanic acid. This is worrisome, especially when the product is to be fed to a very small child. However, it seems probable that the normal cooking of porridges quickly drives off the cyanide.