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Sorghum is used for food, fodder, and the production of alcoholic beverages. It is drought tolerant and heat tolerant, and is especially important in arid regions. It is an important food crop in Africa, Central America, and South Asia, and is the “fifth most important cereal crop grown in the world”.

Use as fodder

The FAO reports that 440,000 square kilometres were devoted worldwide to sorghum production in 2004. In the US, sorghum grain is used primarily as a maize (corn) substitute for livestock feed because their nutritional values are very similar. Some hybrids commonly grown for feed have been developed to deter birds, and therefore contain a high concentration of tannins and phenolic compounds, which causes the need for additional processing to allow the grain to be digested by cattle.

Culinary use

In arid, less developed regions of the world, sorghum is an important food crop, especially for subsistence farmers.

Bhakri (jolada rotti in northern Karnataka), a variety of unleavened bread usually made from sorghum, is the staple diet in many parts of India, such as Maharashtra state and northern Karnataka state. In eastern Karnataka and the Rayalaseema area of Andhra Pradesh, roti (jonna rotte) made with sorghum is the staple food.

Popcorn (for size comparison) left, and popped sorghum seeds, right

Popcorn (for size comparison) left, and popped sorghum seeds, right

In South Africa, sorghum meal is often eaten as a stiff porridge much like pap. It is called mabele in Northern Sotho and “brown porridge” in English. The porridge can be served with maswi – soured milk – or merogo – a mixture of boiled greens (much like collard greens or spinach).

In Ethiopia, sorghum is fermented to make injera flatbread, and in Sudan it is fermented to make kisra.In India, dosa is sometimes made with a sorghum-grain mixture, but rice is more commonly used in place of sorghum.

In the cuisine of the Southern United States, sorghum syrup was used as a sweet condiment, much as maple syrup was used in the North, usually for biscuits, corn bread, pancakes, hot cereals or baked beans. It is uncommon today.

In Arab cuisine, the unmilled grain is often cooked to make couscous, porridges, soups, and cakes. Many use it, along with other flours or starches, to make bread.

Sorghum seeds can be popped in the same manner as popcorn (i.e., with oil or hot air, etc.), although the popped kernels are smaller than popcorn.

Sorghum sometimes is used for making tortillas (e.g., in Central America). In El Salvador, they sometimes use sorghum (maicillo) to make tortillas when there is not enough corn.

Since 2000, sorghum has come into increasing use in homemade and commercial breads and cereals made specifically for the gluten-free diet.

Alcoholic beverages

In China, sorghum is the most important ingredient for the production of distilled beverages, such as maotai and kaoliang, as seen in the 1987 film Red Sorghum.

In southern Africa, sorghum is used to produce beer, including the local version of Guinness. In recent years, sorghum has been used as a substitute for other grain in gluten-free beer. Although the African versions are not “gluten-free”, as malt extract is also used, truly gluten-free beer using such substitutes as sorghum or buckwheat are now available. Sorghum is used in the same way as barley to produce a “malt” that can form the basis of a mash that will brew a beer without gliadin or hordein (together “gluten”) and therefore can be suitable for coeliacs or others sensitive to certain glycoproteins.

[Source: Wikipedia - Commercial Sorghum: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commercial_sorghum]


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