Garri is made from peeled, washed and mashed cassava tubers, allowed to ferment for days, then sifted and later fried or roasted in a bowl to form the dry granules popularly called ‘Garri’, the texture of which is determined by its intended use, or the tribe making it.
The different types of Garri are influenced by the area or tribe in which they are made or found. The most famous types in Nigeria are the Ijebu Gari (common to the Ijebu people of Yoruba, and acclaimed the best quality of garri), the Egba Garri (of the Egba people of Yorubaland, also of very fine and crispy quality), the Yellow Garri (fried with the addition of palm oil and popular amongst Igbos), and also the ‘Lebu’, which is the smoothest kind and has an almost powdery texture.
Garri, because of its dry and floury form, is often stored in a dry and non-humid place, and can stay in its edible form for years without any additional or special form of preservation.
Garri is a staple food in Nigeria, and it really is the fastest food to prepare in all forms of consumption. Garri is either eaten by soaking in cold water in a bowl, with or without sugar (or honey) and other supplements like groundnut, cashew nut, or coconut. Powdered or evaporated milk is added to give it a more nourishing taste and to add class. There’s no limit to what you can use to enhance Garri; younger people add chocolate and other assorted beverages to garnish the soaked garri. The older prefer garri simply with cold water and fried fish.
‘Garri and sugar’ is the most popular food amongst students, especially in the boarding houses. It’s a common saying among Nigerian students that if you have all the provisions and beverages in the world but lack garri, then you are a very poor student. ‘Drinking’ garri can also be very addictive.
Garri is also favourably consumed in its dough form; soaking garri in hot water and kneading or ‘turning’ it with a wooden baton (sometimes called ‘turning stick’), or a strong metal spoon. It takes half the time to prepare than boiling an egg. The (best-served hot) dough, popularly called ‘Eba’ amongst the Yorubas or ‘Utara’ (or preferably ‘Garri’) amongst the Igbos, is eaten with almost any kind of soup, depending on individual preference. It serves as a great and popular meal for big occasions and parties.
Some prefer snacking on garri in its dry form, sometimes mixing it with salt or sugar. There’s also no limit to how this is preferred. Powdered milk and chocolate can also be added for greater taste.
Lebu-Garri is mostly made into a spiced ball containing pepper and other locally available spices. It also contains palm oil which makes the ball soft. This variety is usually served with fried fish.
Garri is also a great compliment to some other foods, like beans porridge. It can be sprinkled on the beans to make it thicker and more filling, or can be soaked separately and eaten together with the other food.
The popular foodstuff has created some debate around its health benefits. The truth is that garri, just like any other food, will take a toll on the human body if abused or taken too much.
Garri is full of carbohydrates, and therefore a great source of energy, better than other sources of carbohydrate like rice as it is cheaper and more widely available.
Garri is also very rich in fibre, and therefore good for the bowels; aids digestion, prevents constipation, effective against Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and also helps reduce the risk of colonic cancer. Modern technology can allow garri to be stripped of its carbohydrate, leaving just the fibre content.
Some believe that drinking Garri-water (water that floats over soaked garri) immediately dissipates tiredness, and is a good prevention against malaria – although these claims are as yet unfounded.
Yellow garri, as it’s prepared with palm oil, adds extra nutrients of Vitamins A and C, fats and oil, etc, to garri, and therefore good for the human skin especially. Garri should be taken as part of a balanced diet to get all the required nutrients in adequate proportions. That is, if soaked in cold water, peanuts, milk, and other supplements should be added, and if cooked in boiled water, rich soups should accompany it.
Garri’s production may not be speedy, but that really doesn’t concern the final consumer as its preparation for consumption is very fast. So whenever hunger comes suddenly and you need something fast, or you just don’t have all the time in the world to cook, garri is a healthy and delicious option.