For many years in Appalachia the months of September and October have meant among many other things, sorghum syrup a.k.a. “molasses” making time. Sweet sorghum syrup is a traditional staple among mountain families and the skill of growing the plant and processing the juice from its stalks in our region is not near as common as it once was. In an effort to revive production of this great crop here at PMSS we acquired some seed in early May and set about to grow a small demonstration plot of sweet sorghum. At time came to reap the harvest just a few weeks ago, Grow Appalachia and PMSS hosted a sorghum production and processing workshop where we produced 6 delicious quarts of syrup. The community gathered around the sorghum mill and later in the day around the fire. Everyone in attendance was all too willing to lend a hand in the quite interesting process.
Sorghum is a member of the grass family and is classified in 4 different categories based on the use. These 4 categories are grain sorghum, boom sorghum, grass sorghum and best of all sweet sorghum. The United States is the world’s largest producer of grain sorghum followed by India, Nigeria, and Mexico. It is a leading cereal grain produced in Africa and is an important food source in India. Leading exporters are the United States, Australia and Argentina. Furthermore, within the United States, Kentucky and Tennessee are the leading states for sweet sorghum production. Well suited for the south-eastern United States sweet sorghum syrup is a high value and shelf stable product that has great marketing potential.
The syrup produced by evaporating and concentrating the sweet sorghum juice is a delicious and nutritious way to sweeten just about anything. In fact many hold sorghum syrup in high regard as a secret ingredient. People are rediscovering that is it scarce to find a food that sorghum will not improve. Just a few of the various and sundry uses for sorghum syrup are over your pancakes, biscuits or toast, as a topping for your ice cream, for ginger snaps or ginger bread. It can also be used in your stir fry base as well as in your baked beans, its’ a great ingredient to add into you homemade breads and can be substituted cup for cup in any recipe that calls for molasses, honey, corn syrup or maple syrup. Sorghum is a nutritious flavoring, a seasoning ingredient and a sugar substitute. Looking back now at the end of my first year of sweet sorghum production, I can only come to one conclusion and that is, I think I’ll grow even more next year.
I want to give a special thanks to local sorghum expert Gary Branson for bringing his mill and his boys to help us process our sorghum.
For more information about this amazing plant see the following links: