fonio, annual plant, genus Digitaria, of the grass family (Poaceoe). Native to Senegal, it is a type of millet grown as a staple grain throughout the Sahel region of West Africa, where it has been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. Its seeds are gluten free, a good source of protein, fiber, and iron, and contain significant amounts of methionine and cysteine, two amino acids missing from most other grains. Fonio is fast growing and drought resistant, and can be raised in infertile soil; up to three crops a year may be grown. The grain, whether white (D. exilis) or black (D. iburua), has a light texture and a nutty flavor. Fonio is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Liliopsida, order Cyperales, family Poaceae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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