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Grow Your Own Sweet Sorghum to Make Molasses

Mary Norwood explains how to grow your own sweet sorghum molasses, and how this easy-to-process, healthy food can be used as a sugar substitute in recipes.

| September/October 1975

  • Sorghum plants
    After the syrup has cooled for about an hour, it's ready to be funneled into final storage containers such as pint or quart glass jars. It should be a rich red or brown color, translucent, and not too thick. Any foam on top will melt back into the contents within a few days.

  • Sorghum plants

In past issues MOTHER EARTH NEWS has told you how to "grow yer own" honey and maple syrup. Now Mary Norwood would like to give you firsthand instructions in the flavorful southern art of producing yet a third homestead sugar substitute. 

Is the high cost of maintaining a sweet tooth getting you down? Well, all over the South at this time of year, folks make a homegrown sugar substitute you might take kindly to: sweet sorghum molasses.

Molasses is an easy-to-process, healthful food — rich in iron, sulfur, and other minerals — which can replace sugar or honey in many recipes. Its flavor is quite different from that of store-bought molasses (a sugarmaking by-product which has a strong aftertaste). Sorghum sweetening is more delicate, with a Country-morning quality and just a hint of sweet earth.

If you'd like to boil your own sweetening next fall, why not think about putting in some sorghum come planting time? Although the crop is traditionally a southern specialty, it will grow anywhere corn flourishes . . . and only a quarter of an acre — plus a little patience — will supply your family with 10 to 15 gallons of good molasses.

Growing Sweet Sorghum

The seed (you'll need 5 to 10 pounds per acre) is available from many farm supply stores such as the FCX chain. Just be sure to ask for molasses — not silage — sorghum. I've planted Sugar Drip, with good results, but several other varieties are also widely used.

A sorghum field should be plowed or disked as deeply as possible, and then smoothed for planting. A sowing date of June 20 gave me grain mature enough for molasses-making by October 1 (possibly a little earlier) . . . but here in central North Carolina, the seeds could probably go into the ground any time from late May through the end of June.

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