Humans may not know it, but we are full of lactic acid bacteria. It may sound scary, but these bacteria make up a significant component of any healthy person’s gastrointestinal tract. They are responsible for fermenting food as it passes through the gut, particularly in the intestines.
Fermentation perpetuates the growth of beneficial microbes called probiotics. These live microbes beneficially affect the host – in this case, people – by improving its intestinal microbial balance.
Of course not all fermentation happens inside the body. It is also the oldest food preservation technique on record. Now scientists like myself are looking to fermentation techniques that have been practised all over Africa for centuries to better understand these important, healthy probiotics.
Centuries of fermentation
Africans have long consumed fermented foods. The continent is the cradle of humankind, so this ancient technology may very likely have originated in Africa as cavemen started collecting and storing food.
People in Africa usually ferment mainly cereal-based foods like sorghum, millet and maize; roots such as cassava; fruits; vegetables, though less commonly; and, to a lesser extent, meat and fish.
Two of southern Africa’s most popular fermented products are amasi, or sour milk, and amahewu, a non-alcoholic fermented maize drink. Amasi is mainly produced by spontaneous fermentation of milk. Amahewu is produced by spontaneous fermentation of cooked maize or sorghum meal. There’s also incwancwa, a sour porridge made from maize or sorghum gruel. This is allowed to spontaneously ferment to improve and develop palatability, flavour and nutrition. It’s then cooked.
Other popular fermented products from this region include umqombothi or sorghum beer that is made from cooked maize or sorghum by wild yeast fermentation; a Zimbabwean traditional sorghum beer called chibuku; and a trio of traditional Zambian non-alcoholic beverages called mabisi, munkoyo and chibwantu. Read More Here …
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