On a recent trip to southern Colombia, I discovered broomcorn being grown as a versatile grain crop. The grain was fed to farm animals, such as chickens, ducks, turkeys and guinea pigs. I also saw a number of useful objects made from the stalks, including cages, sleeping mats and bags. To become a usable material, the stalks must be soaked in water, and then the brooms are bundled into a half-inch-thick rope and tied together. The thickest stalks are cut up and used as cooking fuel.
Broomcorn is not really corn, but a type of sorghum that grows well wherever corn can be grown. When it matures, it tassels out into heads, which are what the whisk brooms I make are made from.
I plant broomcorn every summer. I harvest the heads after they begin to lose their green color, and I hang them upside down in the garage until dry. I then comb the seeds off and store them in a paper bag, saving some for next year’s seed crop, with the rest to be used as birdseed.