Unlike modern varieties of wheat, corn, and rice, ancient grains are so-called because they have remained relatively unchanged over thousands of years of cultivation. Ancient grains tend to be less processed and pack more vitamins, minerals and fibre than other widespread hybridised grains. Important ancient African grains include sorghum, millet and Bambara groundnuts. These grains are rich in nutrients and can be grown in arid environments, and in soils that are not well suited to cultivating other commercial crops.
Heritage Month is the perfect time to experiment with ancient grains as they work amazingly well in traditional South African dishes and are a source of healthy food.
Before maize was introduced to Sub-Saharan Africa, millet was the most widely eaten grain across the region. Millet, particularly pearl millet, is said to have originated in Africa prior to being exported to Asia. Millet is very nutritious and highly resistant to droughts; it’s also gluten-free and easy to digest. A good source of manganese, millet also contains a moderate amount of dietary fibre, as well as zinc, copper and phosphorus, and various phytochemicals. This ancient grain is one of our Future 50 Foods, and you can trust that it’s good for you and better for the planet.
Another Knorr Future 50 Foods, Bambara groundnuts are one of the many neglected and underutilised crop species in South Africa. Bambara groundnuts are cultivated for their pods and produce reasonable yields even under conditions of drought and low soil fertility. In South Africa, Bambara groundnuts are mainly produced by smallholder and subsistence farmers. Bambara groundnuts also contain healthy quantities of proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and amino acids.
Cook with Bambara groundnuts:
Crispy Peri-Peri Bambara Groundnuts
Beef and Bambara Groundnut Soup
Spicy Bambara Groundnuts on Sweet Potato 'Toast'
Sorghum is a gluten-free grain and is the fifth most commonly grown grain crop in the world behind wheat, rice, corn and barley. Sorghum contains iron, magnesium, phosphorus, niacin and Vitamin B6, and can be fermented and made into a sour porridge.
Cook with sorghum:
Ginger Spiced Couscous