Guest Post #4: Garri

Garri in a market in Nigeria

Garri is a household name in Nigeria, as well as in West Africa. A creamy-white granular flour with fermented flavor and a slightly sour taste, Garri or cassava flakes is a rich source of carbohydrate, made from fermented, gelatinized fresh cassava tubers. This staple food is derived from cassava tubers through a winding processing method that includes fermenting (soaking the tubers in water), grinding, and frying.

Although oral tradition traces the origin of garri to the Bendel area in the Mid-Western Region of Nigeria, the name ‘Garri’ is of Hausa origin. In Hausa language, Garri simply means “powder” or “powdered”. This applies to food or substances. And there is often a second word to connote what type of powder a grain flour it is. For instance, Garin Dawa (guinea flour), Garin masara ( maize flour), Garin sukkhari (sugar), Garin Magani (powdery medicine) etc.

There are two major types of garri in Nigeria: white & yellow garri. Yellow garri is achieved when palm oil is added during the frying process, a popular method in South-East Nigeria. One variation of white garri remarkable for its finer grains and uniquely sour taste is Ijebu garri. Produced mainly by the Yoruba people of Ijebu origin, this variation has achieved incredible popularity both at home and abroad.

The demand for garri is mostly high due to its affordability, ease of preparation, and the fact that it can be consumed in combination with several other food items. This has bolstered the garri industry to such an extent that it is now mechanized, in a country scarcely renowned for using machines for agriculture. When properly stored, garri has a shelf-life of six months or more.

There are several ways to consume garri. As a snack, garri grains can be chewed with or without nuts. Garri can also be taken like a cereal when added to cold water, sugar, milk, groundnuts (peanuts), dry fish, fried fish, beans etc. It can also be made into a dough to be eaten with different soups and stew dishes. In Liberia, Garri is used to make a dessert called Kanyan which is combined with peanuts and honey. These are only a few ways this loved white powder serves as food in many areas of Africa. Even then, food enthusiasts continue to look for more creative ways.

 

Contributed by Josephine (avidimes@gmail.com)

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