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What Is Sorghum?
The sorghum grain is a member of the grass family (Poaceae) that was domesticated nearly 8,000 years ago. Sorghum comes in many forms: whole grain, pearled grain, popped, syrup, bran, flaked, and flour. Grain sorghum has colorful seeded stalks in varying shades of white, yellow, red, deep purple, and brown, and a leafy stalk reminiscent of corn.
Sorghum is a versatile cereal grain used for human consumption as well as livestock feed, alcoholic beverages, and biofuel production. When sorghum is consumed with its outer hull intact, it’s a good source of dietary fiber and antioxidants.
Where Does Sorghum Come From?
Sorghum bicolor, also known as broomcorn, was first domesticated in Ethiopia and Sudan about 8,000 years ago. Now, there are varieties of sorghum crops found all over the world, throughout Asia, Australia, North America, and Africa. Sorghum crops are non-GMO (since it’s grown from hybrid seeds), and drought-tolerant.
Sorghum prefers arid environments; the “sorghum belt” in the United States, for example, extends from South Dakota through Nebraska and Kansas to South Texas. In the United States, sorghum has traditionally been grown for animal feed, but this has shifted in recent years as sorghum, a gluten-free grain, has become more popular among those with Celiac disease.
3 Ways to Use Sorghum in Your Home Cooking
There are a few ways to incorporate sorghum into your cooking:
- Sorghum syrup: “Sweet sorghum,” a species of sorghum with a higher sugar content in its stalks, is made into a sweetener that also goes by the name sorghum molasses. In the Southern United States, tangy-sweet sorghum syrup is drizzled over biscuits for breakfast, but you can also use it on pancakes, grits, and other hot cereals.
- Sorghum flour: Ground grain sorghum, or sorghum flour, can be used in any number of recipes, especially ones that call for whole wheat flour. Sorghum flour is particularly useful for gluten-free baking, and can be used to make flatbreads, like injera, quick breads, muffins, pasta, and desserts. (Combined with xanthan gum, sorghum flour has a bit more structure and holding power.) The closest substitute for sorghum flour is gluten-free oat flour, though similar grain-based flours like quinoa flour or brown rice flour can also work, depending on the recipe.
- Whole grain sorghum: In some parts of the world, sorghum is prepared like couscous, as the base for dishes like grain bowls. Top whole grain sorghum with steamed, roasted, or raw vegetables and a light dressing. Sorghum kernels can also be cooked into a breakfast porridge on the stovetop or in a slow cooker and served with a variety of complementary toppings just like oats.
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