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Sorghum: The Next Super Grain?

HuffPost logo HuffPost 10/29/2014 Julie R. Thomson
Sorghum has found favour with the gluten-free market. © The Huffington Post Sorghum has found favour with the gluten-free market.

Unless you were raised in the South, sorghum isn't an ingredient you've encountered often - if at all.

A couple of generations ago, sorghum was a staple sweetener in the South. It was cheap, plentiful, and often went by the name of sorghum molasses. The thick golden syrup often was used in place of molasses and those that have grown up on it are partial to the flavor. Edward Lee, Souther chef and cookbook author said to AP that this sweetener is "a unique flavor. And it adds a lot of depth to what you're cooking, more so than honey." And Sean Brock, the James Beard Award-winning chef, says that the flavors of sorghum remind him of home, where every fall the community would get together to harvest the tall plant and boil down the sorghum syrup.

Sorghum is a cereal grain that grows tall like corn, with Sorghum is used for more than just sweetening. First and foremost, in the United States, sorghum is used for livestock feed and in ethanol plants. It's a popular crop to grow within the drier regions of the States because it is drought resistant. This quality also makes it a popular crop in Africa - sorghum is thought to have been introduced to America from the slave ships of colonial times.

Tony & Monica Li - Wong's Foodland - Clarksdale, MSProject: Chinese GrocersPhoto by Jung Min (Kevin) KimSummer Sorghum products at Wong's Foodland in Clarksdale. © Southern Foodways Alliance/Flickr Sorghum products at Wong's Foodland in Clarksdale.

America has found yet another use for this grain: in the gluten free market. While sorghum is famous in the South as a sweetener, if can also be used as a grain or ground into a flour - it is in fact an ancient whole grain full of nutritional benefits. Ground into flour, it can be used as a substitute for wheat flour. Though, it has no gluten (obvs) so it requires a binding agent in some recipes like xantham gum or cornstarch. And that's not all, sorghum can also be popped like popcorn. How have we been surviving without this versatile grain for all these years?


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