Broomcorn: A Multipurpose Grain Crop

This easy-to-grow grain crop can have many uses, such as a whisk broom, sleeping mat or as bird food.

stalks of broomcorn

You can grow broomcorn for livestock feed and make brooms and other items from the sturdy seed heads and stalks.

Photo By Fotolia/Bronwyn Photo

Content Tools

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.

Gerald Rowan 
Coplay, Pennsylvania