Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
I love sorghum. I love sorghum making. Sorghum's tall canes grow in the summer heat, towering high to reach the sun with its glistening heads full of red beady seeds. It's nice to have a large crop of sorghum growing. A large crop, in my case, is having enough cane to produce 50 gallons of juice. Are you interested in making sorghum? Maybe you have an interest, but aren't
ready to take the plunge. Is there reason to grow sorghum, even just a small crop? Yes, I think there are several good uses of sorghum that go beyond cooking syrup.
Sorghum as a grain. Sorghum seed can be ground into a flour that is gluten free. Even if you are not gluten intolerant, there are health benefits from decreasing the amount of gluten in your diet. I have not used sorghum as a flour, but am planning on experimenting with it this year. I have a plan of action concerning the harvest of the seed heads to use for flour: Bundle the cut heads into groups of six or so and tie and hang to dry and mature. Rafters in a barn, or attic would work well for this, as long as there is good air flow. Next, comb all the seeds out. This can be done by either rubbing the seeds out by hand, or using a clean curry comb, or hitting the seed heads against something hard.
Once the seeds are out of the head, they can be gleaned like wheat. Rub the seeds to remove any left over bits of wirey fiber that attached it to the head, and sift in the wind using a large sheet to lift the seeds in the air, letting the wind blow away fibers. This method is also good for achieving a good, high germination seed stock. The sorghum grain can then be ground in a mill and sifted or ground till the desired courseness. A member of the “Sorghum Revival” group on facebook, Donna Inman, (moderator of facebook group; Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning - Traditional Techniques), also suggest this website http://www.sorghum.state.ne.us/publications/sorghumrecipes.htm for recipes that include the use of non-gluten sorghum flour. Before grinding, also try the grain out for popping! It pops up great, just like popcorn, in a little oil over a hot burner, shaking often to prevent scorching. Try it!
Sorghum for bird feed. Sorghum seed makes a wonderful winter bird feed, as well as feed for chicken or
other fowl. I enjoy having excess seed heads stored just for throwing out on snow covered ground for birds to use for nutrition when other food sources are hard to find.
Sorghum for decoration. Sorghum heads are beautiful with their glistening dark rust colored seeds. There are also broom corn varieties and other colors of seeds available. Look at www.rareseeds.com (Baker Creek Seeds, in Manfield, Mo.) for some of the unique varieties of sorghum. My fellow farmers market friend Gwen ( www.shinehollowranch.com ) enjoys using them in dried flower arrangements, and my mom likes them for fall displays that include corn shocks and pumpkins. I came up with an idea to wire them into a grape vine wreath for a fall decoration, and hope to be able to try that out this fall.
Growing sorghum, even a small crop is a way to increase your seed bank in an enormous way! Each seed planted
increases itself into the hundreds in one years crop! If only a small packet of a desired variety can be obtained, within a year seed from that crop can be kept to provide for a much larger crop next year.
If you are growing sorghum for syrup, consider how much juice you can cook at one time. In my zone and with our soil, I can grow a 125-foot row with canes thinned to about 6 inches apart with a yield of about 10 gallons per row. It has enough time to grow and mature as long as I get it planted by the first week in July, but it is optimum to get it planted during the month of June.
There are several sources of sorghum seed, whether in packets or in bulk. Baker Creek Seed Co. in Manfield, Mo. carries several unique varieties, including broom corns. Since these are available in packets only, they are a good choice for either seed-bank building or using for grain or ornamental. Shumway Seeds has Rox Orange, which is an old cane variety, in bulk. Robert Townsend, of www.townsendsorghummill.com, has bulk seed of many of the favored sweet sorghum syrup varieties.
I hope this information helps anyone with an interest with sorghum. Please continue to send stories and post questions on my blog, or you can contact me on twitter @SherryLevTucker. I have also created a Facebook page called “Sorghum Revival” that anyone can join and be involved in conversation on this subject. Another option is to send email responses to letters@MotherEarthNews.com (please include “Sorghum” in the email subject line) or mail letters to Sorghum; Attention H. Hunt; MOTHER EARTH NEWS; 1503 SW 42ndSt.; Topeka , KS 66609