Sorghum is a member of the grass family of plants. Although many people in the United States are not familiar with this grain, it is a major staple in large parts of the world It is the fifth most commonly grown cereal grain, following wheat, corn, oats, and barley in popularity. Sorghum has many and varied uses in farming, cooking, and industry.
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In the United States, 90 percent of sorghum is used for feeding livestock, with a feed value similar to corn. This annual grass is tolerant to drought, toxic soils, and temperature and altitude extremes, making it useful for farmers in regions with less than ideal farmland and climates. Livestock can eat the seeds, stalk, and leaves of sorghum plants, either harvested or in the field as forage.
Cereal and Flour
Sorghum has been used for human food for thousands of years in Africa and parts of Asia. This bland, slightly sweet grain is traditionally served as porridge or made into flatbread. Sorghum flour is a popular substitute for wheat flour for those who are unable to tolerate gluten. It can be used for baked goods, snack foods, and noodles.
A variety of sorghum, known as sweet sorghum, is grown in the southeastern and gulf states for the manufacture of syrup. The stalks of the plant are harvested, and the juice is extracted and concentrated to make a sweet syrup. Sorghum syrup is similar to molasses and can be substituted for sugar, honey, or corn syrup in cooking or poured over pancakes, biscuits, or waffles.
In Africa, sorghum is used to make a traditional beer, known as opaque beer. This fermented sour beer is brewed in homes and commercially. In the U.S., Anheuser-Busch produces a type of sorghum beer, called Redbridge, which is marketed to those who suffer from wheat allergy. In China, the popular Mao-tai and Fen liquors are made from sorghum.
Sorghum is increasingly used for the production of ethanol, second only to corn. Much of the sorghum which is made into ethanol is grown in Kansas. Sorghum is used to make packaging materials and wallboard. The starch from sorghum is used in paper and adhesive manufacture.