Although we see sorghum in the Southeast today, it has deep roots in ancient history around the world. In an archeological dig at Nabta Playa, in northeast Africa, archeologists found sorghum dating back to when it was first domesticated.
Throughout time, the ancient Egyptians found ways to help sorghum grow in other areas. Eventually, the crop was able to grow in Australia, and as the explores moved west so did sorghum.
The sorghum belt in the United States spans from South Dakota to Texas, but those are not the only places you can find it growing in America. While you can see sorghum growing in Georgia, it is not a top ten producing state of this grain, but other Southern states make the cut, like Louisiana, North Carolina, and Mississippi.
Sorghum is usually located in a field with a pH range of 6.0-7.8 and is planted as soon as the soil temperature is greater than 60 degrees Fahrenheit. As the plant begins to grow it can take up to 14 days for the first leave to emerge.
As the plant grows, the sorghum gets more leaves, usually 15-18 leaves. The last leaf to form is the flag leaf. As soon as you can see the leaf tip the countdown is on for the sorghum head to form. This process usually takes around seven to ten days.
After the sorghum head is formed the flower starts to form from the top of the plant down. Quickly after that process is over, the grain is formed and begins to mature. The transformation from soft grain to hard grain can be seen by a change of color. The final color of the grain can vary from bronze, red, tan, or white.
Sorghum is harvested with a combine, and once it is harvested, it can be used to produce a variety of products. That can be Sorghum syrup, popped sorghum, sorghum flour, or just whole grain sorghum. Sorghum has many different uses in the kitchen. It can be used as a starch substitute, plant-based protein, or sweetener.
The ancient grain from Africa has a big impact both in and out of the field and kitchen since its domestication in the West. Next time you drive pass a field full of sorghum you will know the history of the crop.