Kram-kram is the edible and highly nutritious grain from the Cenchrus biflorus grass. The grain is rich in protein and has perhaps the highest calorie content of any grain, but today it is only collected when the harvests of other grains are not sufficient to feed the community. Kram-kram is considered difficult to collect because the grain is enclosed in a spiny covering that gets stuck to animal fur and clothing. In the Sahel area of Mali, the Tuareg people collect it as a wild cereal. When the fruits (takanà) ripen in December, the grains (wasaille) fall onto the sand. They stick together and roll into balls as they are pushed by the wind. Tuareg women collect the balls with straw or by sweeping them up with rakes made from acacia wood.To be used, the seeds are hulled in a mortar, extracting the white grain from its spiny covering. The grains can be pounded and eaten raw, made into porridge, or mixed and cooked with other foods. They can also be made into a drink. During the rainy season, the plant can be cut more than once, and used for hay when it is spineless. With spines, it can be preserved in traditional silos, where fermentation softens the spines enough to be digested by animals.Kram-kram grass grows very well in the sand and needs little water. In the past, it was the dominant cereal of both the Sahel and the borderland between the Sahel and the Sahara, and was once a more important food than pearl millet. The main reason for the decline of kram-kram is the significant reduction in suitable land. This is also partly linked to the Tuareg’s transition from a nomadic to semi-nomadic (and almost sedentary) lifestyle, which encourages localized grazing and does not allow the plant to produce grains. Another factor can be correlated to the decreased importance and strength of the traditional authorities, who were once very mindful of this wild grain. Encouraging the processing and consumption of this grain could not only benefit the environment by combating desertification, but also preserve important cultural aspects of the Tuareg community, their gastronomic culture and be very valuable in terms of regional food sovereignty.Back to the archive >
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Ark of taste
The traditional products, local breeds, and know-how collected by the Ark of Taste belong to the communities that have preserved them over time. They have been shared and described here thanks to the efforts of the network that that Slow Food has developed around the world, with the objective of preserving them and raising awareness. The text from these descriptions may be used, without modifications and citing the source, for non-commercial purposes in line with the Slow Food philosophy.