Chef Pierre Thiam’s recent TED Talk introduced us to an ancient, forgotten grain called fonio.
Fonio is a West African grain that’s been cultivated for thousands of years. A cross between couscous and quinoa, it’s characterized by a nutty aroma and small-stone texture. The grain is naturally vegan, gluten-free, and loaded with essential vitamins. They’re also abundant in methionine and cystine, both essential amino acids, and boasts 12 grams of protein per cup, to boot.
Similar to rice, fonio is fine and will swell almost double its size after cooking. It’s traditionally used in breakfast porridges, but is a fine substitute for any grains in your favorite recipes.
You could make a grain bowl with some roasted veggies, serve it as a complement to a salad, or combine with nuts and raisins for an uber-nutritious fonio pilaf. It’s also a fine replacement for bulgar in tabbouleh, or an alternative to couscous in, well, anything.
In the TED Talk, Thiam says, “Ancient grains are getting more popular, and sales of gluten-free items are growing in the US —16.4 percent since 2013, making it a 23.3-billion-dollar industry. How could fonio partake in this market share?”
With its potential growth, and the potential nutrition offered from fonio, it could be beneficial to all parties involved to encourage fonio in the West. The sustainability is alluring; the plant can thrive in subpar growing conditions, and takes just six-to-eight weeks to harvest the grains. That quick turnaround time could revolutionize economies for countries that export the grain internationally.
Don’t worry – you won’t need to wait to try this supergrain out for yourself. You can purchase fonio grains on Amazon for less than $16!