Fonio and the Obà project
Introducing Fonio in Europe, an ancient gluten-free grain from West Africa, delicious and rich in nutritional values.
Many people think Fonio could be the new Quinoa, a superfood, rich in protein, fiber and mineral salts. Yet, Fonio, one of the world’s ancient grain, has been a forgotten crop.
Fonio belongs to the millet’s botanical family, it is grown throughout the sub-Saharan area, it is extremely drought resistant and tolerates poor soil with little water, thriving where nothing else will grow. It is ready for harvest in 6/8 weeks, which makes it always available when other crops are not yet ready. It embeds some natural anti-parasitic substances which make it a perfect fit for an organic and sustainable agriculture.
Those Fonio’s qualities could be the right solution to the food security and poverty in the world. As such, we at Obà invest in Africa to support the development of this grain, within our project of ethical and sustainable agriculture.
You might be wondering - why hasn’t Fonio spread across till today ? Well, I have been asking myself the same question, in order to understand where, and which, were possible constrains to its development.
Actually, Fonio fell out of favor for a long time in Africa as well, with a shift in favor of the rice importation. This was due to the fact that the Fonio’s grain is very small (approximately 1-2 mm), and it made the manual processing and husking very time consuming. Only recently, proper equipment was development to help processing this grain.
On top to the laborious husking, the cultivation is highly fragmented, since it is managed by many small farmers and this makes the grain quite heterogeneous from molecular stand point. This is an aspect which makes it unsuitable for the big food industries, which require a very “standardized” grain.
This aspect, actually, represents for us the absolute strength of Fonio, a whole grain which offers the “wild” taste of the ancient grains, something that the other refined grains cannot grant.
How to prepare and to eat it ? It is fundamentally in between Quinoa and Cous Cous, great with vegetables, meat or fish. I usually suggest (far from being a Chef…) to use Quinoa recipes as inspiration, by using Fonio Obà instead of Quinoa.
Fonio can be an excellent alternative to Quinoa, it tastes sweeter and more delicate.
Also the flour has been a fantastic surprise. We tried it in every kind of bakery, bread, pizza and even for the Panettoni ! Fonio’s flour is really appreciated by everybody who tried to bake it.
I must admit, I am astonished by how this grain is enjoying everybody’s favor. In addition to being 100% natural, gluten-free and highly nutritious, it tastes really great ! Which always helps…