Sorghum is one of the top cereal crops in the world, along with wheat, oats, corn, rice, and barley. Originally cultivated in Egypt in antiquity; the largest producers of sorghum in the modern era are still in Africa, although the crop has spread to southern Asia and the Americas as well. An annual grass that is extremely drought tolerant, sorghum is an excellent choice for arid and dry areas. Sorghum has the ability to adapt to weather extremes and is a very stable source of nutrition as a result. It is most commonly red and hard when ripe and is usually dried after harvesting for longevity, as the grains are stored whole.
Sorghum is a type of grain that is commonly grown in warm regions. It can be eaten as porridge or turned into flour and baked into breads and cakes. Sorghum is significantly more nutritionally dense than ordinary white flour. Some sweeter varieties of sorghum can also be used to create a molasses like syrup.
Sorghum is an extremely versatile plant – these are just some of the uses for it:
The whole sorghum grain consists largely of carbohydrates, but it also boasts plenty of good protein, plenty of vitamins and minerals, very little fat and a miniscule amount of saturated fat, with little sodium and zero cholesterol. The rest of the grain is fibre. Sorghum supplies a lot of phosphorus, iron and potassium, significant amounts of magnesium and calcium, and even some zinc. A cup of sorghum also supplies significant proportions of the RDA of several important B vitamins – thiamine, niacin and riboflavin.
Sorghum is favoured by the gluten intolerant and is often cooked as porridge to be eaten alongside other foods. The grain is fairly neutral in flavour, and sometimes slightly sweet. This makes it well adapted to a variety of dishes, because, like tofu, sorghum absorbs flavours well. It can also be eaten plain.
This grain is commonly eaten with the hull, which retains the majority of the nutrients. The plant is very high in fibre and iron, with a fairly high protein level as well. This makes it well suited to its use as a staple starch in much of the developing world.
The grain is also used around the world to brew beers. In South Africa, sorghum is used to make beer, while in China it is used in the making of distilled beverages like kaoliang and maotai. Compared to sorghum, the cost of large-scale brewing of barley is costly – in some countries sorghum is substituted for barley in the brewing process.
Sorghum beer is one of the most popular drinks amongst health-conscious drinkers and is known as bil-bil in Cameroon, burukuto in Nigeria, pombe in East Africa and bjala in North Sotho. The first sorghum beer to be produced and marketed throughout the United States was Redbridge.
Another type of sorghum, sweet sorghum, is grown for the manufacture of syrup. In the case of sweet sorghum, the stalks of the plant are harvested, rather than the seeds, and crushed like sugar cane or beets to produce sorghum syrup. After crushing, the syrup is cooked down to concentrate the natural sugars and packaged for sale.
Sorghum syrup and hot biscuits are a traditional breakfast in the Southern United States. Sorghum syrup is also used on pancakes, cornmeal mush, grits and other hot cereals. It can be used as a cooking ingredient with similar effects as molasses. Despite the fact that the nutritional content of sorghum syrup is relatively high, blackstrap molasses provide far more nutrients.
In the U.S. since the 1950s, sorghum has been raised primarily for forage and silage, with sorghum cultivation for cattle feed concentrated in the Great Plains (Texas, Kansas, and Nebraska are the leading producers), where insufficient rainfall and high temperature make corn production unprofitable.
Sweet sorghum syrup is called “molasses” or “sorghum molasses” in some regions of the U.S., but the term molasses more properly refers to a different, sweet syrup, made as a by-product of sugarcane or sugar beet sugar extraction.