Sorghum is truly a versatile crop that can be grown as a grain, forage or sweet crop. Sorghum is one of the top five cereal crops in the world. The United States is the world’s largest producer of grain sorghum, having produced 597 million bushels in 2015.
Sorghum originated in Egypt 4,000 years ago, and spread throughout Africa and into India. It is one of the longest-cultivated plants of warm regions in Africa and Asia–especially in India and China. Today it’s Africa’s second most important cereal. Africa now produces 20 million tons of sorghum per year, a third of the world total.
Sorghum has now become an important crop in Latin America as well. The crop has gained prominence in Mexico over the past half-century, and the number of hectares of sorghum planted in the country grew over 1,000 percent from 1958 to 1980. Mexico has large areas of dry farmland, and sorghum requires less water than maize and wheat.
The first sorghum seeds may have been brought into the United States during the late 1700’s on slave ships. At that time, it was known as “Guinea corn.” It is believed that Benjamin Franklin introduced the first grain sorghum crop to the United States.
The consumer food industry is a growing marketplace for sorghum. With so many healthy benefits packed in every delicious grain, consumers are finding creative ways to use sorghum in recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even snacks. Plus, sorghum grain can be cooked using a stove top, slow cooker, oven or rice cooker to add a new twist to favorite recipes. Thus, sorghum now can be found in more than 350 product lines in the U.S. alone.
The growing gluten-free market has found a new use for “sweet” sorghum, as a popular ingredient in gluten-free flour and baking mixes. The type of sorghum used in gluten-free mixes is cream-colored, usually milled to a soft, fine flour.