Even in France - THE place for guinea fowl - we don’t know that much about these beautiful birds. Strange, that. So, it’s high time we cracked open a few secrets about them. And when you know there's such a thing as guinea fowl farming, all you have to do is surprise your guests with a guinea fowl dish, then sit back and enjoy all the praise... for your cooking.
By all accounts
As far as we know, Numida meleagris - the domestic helmeted guinea fowl - is native to Africa, where there are still pockets of wild guinea fowl living on the savannah and up in the trees. They were first imported by the Greeks and Romans, who used them as offerings to the gods and reared them like poultry. There are many myths and legends surrounding the guinea fowl, starting with the name. So... why are they called guinea fowl?
From Pharaoh's chicken to pintades and guinea fowl
The guinea fowl, or pintades as it’s sometimes called, was known as the ‘Numidian chicken’ to the Romans. It was the ‘Turkish chicken’ at the time the Byzantine Empire fell, and ‘Pharaoh's chicken’ or ‘Indian chicken’ by the 15th century. A hundred years later it arrived in Spain, where it became the pintado - meaning 'well-pigmented' - with reference to its pointed crest and colourful wattle. The domestic guinea fowl originated from one of several wild species on what was once called the Guinea Coast in West Africa, hence the name.
GUINEA FOWL IN GREECE
It was Aristotle who gave it the name ‘Meleagris’. In Greek mythology, the sisters of Meleager were turned into birds by Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. Meleager was the king of Calydon. When he was killed, Artemis turned his sisters into birds to ease their suffering, and they became guinea fowl. In spite of her efforts, their relentless weeping left small white spots on their grey plumage.
The domesticated guinea fowl bred in Europe has retained the mistrustful, wild nature of its ancestors, Numida meleagris. The guinea fowl is a species belonging to the Numididae family. They were once endemic throughout Africa from north to south, but have become scarce as a result of excessive hunting. They can now be found in the wild from the southern Sahara to Mozambique, and also in Madagascar, South America, Asia and some islands in the Indian Ocean. There are also pockets of them in the Caribbean. Guinea fowl live in small groups. They can run fast on their relatively long legs and they can also fly. The guinea fowl is an omnivorous gallinaceous species that feeds on plants, berries, seeds and insects in areas where there are trees and bushes.
The queen of cuisine
and hearts and dinners
Guinea fowl is tasty and delicious; the flavour is somewhere between game and poultry. It can be cooked in a variety of ways to suit any taste - roasted, steamed, griddled, pan-fried, en papillote, in the wok or on the barbecue. Whole or in portions, fresh or frozen, it lends itself to any situation - a family meal, a romantic dinner for two, or a simple dish for an amateur foodie or young chef to prepare; guinea fowl answers everyone's needs!
It's all good
At 170 calories per 100 grams, guinea fowl is one of the lightest meats you can buy. It also has a good balance of lipids. Its low cholesterol content and predominantly mono-unsaturated fatty acids mean it is unrivalled in the poultry stakes as an ally for anyone who’s on a diet.
Of all the different types of poultry, guinea fowl is one of the most protein-rich with 21.7 grams per 100 grams. A weighty benefit not to be taken lightly!
Good to know
The meat will mature if you wrap your guinea fowl in baking parchment or a tea towel and store it at 4°C in the fridge (remove the plastic film if it comes on a tray). Worth knowing, right? No need to thank us :)
Alright then, one last thing before we finish. Do you know what the guinea fowl’s call, or rather scream, sounds like? They say it's a kind of cackling or screeching. That's it - now you know everything there is to know - or almost everything. All that's left is for us to say "bon appetit"!