Draa baida beldia (arabo)
This variety of sorghum, called asingar abeldi in the local language of Tashelhit, looks remarkably like a corn plant while it is growing, except that instead of a cob inside a sheath of leaves, it has a seed head at the end of a curved stalk. The seed head slightly resembles that of wheat, and is shaped like a bunch of grapes. It is rich in protein and dietary fiber, and is supposed to be particularly good for diabetics. It is a specific variety of sorghum particular to the Souss Valley area, particularly the coastal town of Aglou, and it is propagated with locally produced seeds. In Aglou in particular it is sometimes call misr (meaning “Egypt”) because its seeds are purportedly originally from Egypt. In other communities, the word misr refers to a different grain. Planting time occurs in May, while the harvest is in August. The plant requires a good rainy season in order to thrive. Asingar abeldi, once harvested, is ground into flour that is used in a number of traditional dishes. Sometimes the flour is made into a soup, called azkif ntemtemt, or into asida asingar, a porridge made in a pot over the stove, piled onto a platter and served hot, with a pool of argan oil on top. The flour is also sometimes mixed with water in the evening and is left to soak up the liquid overnight. This dish is called mahlil. When asingar abeldi was more plentiful, it was used to make a highly regarded kind of bread. Now there is not enough of this sorghum to grind into flour, so locally, bread is made mainly with wheat and barley flours. Asingar abeldi was once common on the market, but today it is scarcely found and usually at a high price. Only a few families, and mostly members of older generations, still grow this crop in their gardens. For many years asingar abeldi was a staple grain of the Aglou community—in the 1960s and 70s it was still quite common, but by the 1980s it began to decline for several reasons. Firstly, the grain is a favorite with the birds, who will eat it all if it is not covered with nets and carefully guarded. Secondly, this variety of sorghum requires a fair amount of water and the recent water stress has made it difficult for it to thrive. Finally, this grain requires time, farming knowledge and great care, and the younger generation is less interested in farming work. As a result, only the older generation knows how and is willing to devote the time and effort necessary to grow and care for asingar abeldi. There are estimates that at this rate the sorghum will disappear entirely in less than a decade.
Image: © Benjamin Spears