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What do you know about sorghum?  RSS feed

 
r ranson
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Sorghum is a crop grown for fodder, grain, parching grain, decoration and a sweet syrup. You can make wine from sorghum, liquor, beer, and other delicious fermented beverages. If we can make alcohol from it, we can probably even make vinegar too. Perhaps the alcohol could be distilled for fuel. We can also make brooms with some varieties.

Supposedly drought hardy, and able to thrive in a huge range of soil conditions including salty soil; sorghum seems like a wonderful all purpose crop. I want to grow it.

The thing is, other than Broom Corn, a kind of decorative sorghum that people grow in Ontario, I've never seen sweet or grain or sweet sorghum grown in Canada.

Why don't we grow it in the north?

It seems that most sorghum grown commercially or as a staple crop is between latitudes 40N and 40S, however, I've seen references to it being grown in northern China, middle of europe (France, Germany, even parts of England), and Russia. Plants for the future has it listed as US growing zone 7-10. I live between 7 and 10... is there any reason why it wouldn't grow here?

Is daylight dependent?


I suppose it doesn't really matter as I'm going to grow it anyway. Everything I've read about sorghum suggests it should grow well here - except that no one grows it here. No one grows it, therefore, no one sells seeds adapted to our clime.

So I ordered some seed from rareseeds.com. Mennonite Sorghum, and Onavas Red Sorghum. I'll plant them in the next few days and hope for the best. This year, I just want to experiment and see if I like growing sorghum and if it likes growing here.

Next year, I may attempt a landrace project, Lofthouse style. Order a pack of every sorghum variety that is similar to my perfect crop, grow it, save seeds, let the environment do the selecting for a few years. Then, take what material I have that survives our clime and start selecting for the characteristics I want (syrup production, grain, tall and beautiful, red-ish colour, and most of all, can thrive in our conditions).


While I wait for the seeds to germinate, what do you know about sorghum? Have you ever grown it? What's it taste like? Is the syrup really all that awesome? How to make the syrup? Anything else you can teach me about sorghum?

Anyone in Canada grown sorghum successfully?
 
jimmy gallop
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first year to plant zone 7 b here. I planted sugar drip 2 week ago and has not sprouted yet I think its been to cold any raining seed might have rotted from cold feet I under stand it's just like corn except longer growing season.
 
R Scott
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Syrup tastes kind of like molasses. I love it, some hate it. It is a cross of making cane sugar and maple syrup. You need a cane press to get the juice out of the canes, then boil it down. You have to be more careful boiling it than maple syrup, as it can burn easily or go bitter if you don't skim all the froth off.

I grow a bit of it, mainly as coffee or cover crop and not really saving seed. It needs warm soil, maybe tarping some raised beds with black tarps or using row covers could extend your season. At least initially, a landrace should not require special treatment in the end.
 
Dan Boone
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This used to be Sorghum country around here; a local museum still has a huge rusting metal donkey?-powered press as a lawn ornament. By all reports, there is *no* practical home-scale tech for pressing the cane. You need that ten-ton press. Used to be farmers in well-run small towns operated one collectively for a couple weeks every fall. There were also travelling presses that went on a circuit between small towns or large farms that didn't have one.
 
R Scott
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Grainmaker has a homestead scale press. http://grainmaker.com/products/grainmaker-sorghum-press/

Not cheap, but it does work well. I played with it at the mother earth news fair. The price made up my mind to raise bees instead of sorghum. Not sure it was the right answer, but probably the right thing to do first.
 
r ranson
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Great info.

Here's a thought I had in the middle of the night. Sorghum is a very old, old world crop that pre-dates industrial revolution and all the wonderful tools it brought. What did people use for small scale sustenance syrup processing before we had metal presses and such equipment to make our lives easier? What do they use in rural parts where there is limited access to this kind of agricultural tech?
 
Dan Boone
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R. Scott, thanks for that link! We've had several threads here on Permies about sorghum and nobody has mentioned that device before. I'm not sure I'd call a 250lb, $2,500 tool "home scale" exactly -- it's about twice as heavy and more than twice as costly as the largest appliance in my home -- but it's an order of magnitude closer anyway than anything else I've seen. That it exists as a human-powered tool makes me very happy. I wonder how many hours a person would have to turn that crank to earn back the investment?

Still, the device is awesome enough for me to want to post in their promotional photo from your link:



R. Ransom, as I understand it sorghum is an ancient grain crop; the "sweet cane" version of the plant is perhaps a relatively modern cultivar? At any rate, I haven't found any evidence for sorghum syrup making prior to the industrial revolution, although I'd be delighted to learn that I overlooked some. (There are some hints the sweet varieties were used in China in antiquity to brew booze from.) As you can tell, I'm fascinated by the sorghum plant, in large part because of its popularity in my area prior to about 1940. But I'm a little bit frustrated, too, by its relative inaccessibility without expensive machinery that I don't have and cannot afford.

 
R Scott
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When I say homeSTEAD scale, I am thinking more like quarter section than quarter acre. Enough to be a self sufficient farm like the old homestead act. Or a small business.

I would not want to crank it for along by hand, but it could be run from a bicycle all day fairly easily with a team of two switching between pedalling and feeding canes.
 
r ranson
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The historical point of view is very interesting to me. I like the idea of combining traditional methods and wisdom with modern day materials and technology in hopes of finding a sustainable balance.

So far, I've only found secondary references (as opposed to actual first hand accounts) of sorghum being made into syrup without industrial made presses. A lot of them are about alcohol production, but they don't state the method for extracting the juice. There are enough hints to make me think that this is worth looking into further.

Traditionally, crops take a long time to become a staple food in a culture. As well, using older plant breeding techniques (aka, pre mendelian theory), it would have taken a considerably longer than one lifetime to create a sorghum that was more useful for it's sweetness than it's grain. People wouldn't have selected for plants that produce sweetness over grain without knowing that the stems produce sweetness. It looks like sweet sorghum may have come to the US from Africa, already in a state that produces sweet stems.

I also wonder about sugar cane - how much is it like sorghum when extracting the juice? The home machines look quite similar. Sugarcane is better documented in history, and appears that the juice was harvested by grinding/chopping then pounding the cane to extract the juice. This might be an interesting direction to take the research and experiment with. (edit to add: going with the sugar theme, this site has some interesting references to how sugar was extracted from the cane pre-big machines. Perhaps it could give insight into how sorghum syrup could be extracted in a subsistence setting.)

When I read about sorghum syrup production during pioneer days, I have this image of some entrepreneur inventor creating this press for shits and giggles - then feeding different crops through it until they hit on sorghum as being the one crop that fits the machine. It's like Voltaire said, God invented noses so we have somewhere to store our spectacles.

All this leads me to think there must have been at least one culture that extracted syrup from sorghum without the use of industrial processing.

What would that look like? I'm thinking about other pre-industrial methods of extraction - may be chopping the stock finely then using a press? Or maybe the alcohol from the cains was made without extracting the juice first? Chop fine, add water, make like a mead, then strain the juice? These are all just guesses based on reading, I haven't seen the plant yet.
 
Dan Boone
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My thought are as yours that they may have chopped the stems and used their brewing water to rinse out (some of) the sugars.

As for sugar cane, I believe it requires somewhat less force to press. My high-quality reason for supposing thusly? Well, the other night on The Amazing Race on TV the racers had to drink cups of cane juice made in moments from sugar cane. The job was done at a street cart using a small light-looking hand-cranked press no bigger than a breadbox.
 
r ranson
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How about popping sorghum? Anyone try growing and/or cooking that? What's it like?
 
David Livingston
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I quite often add millet to my bread and we eat millet cooking it similar to rice along with fried onion .

David
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Grain Sorghum does indeed pop like pop corn.
If you are growing sorghum for making syrup you want to grow the tall (6-10 foot) varieties. go here for more information on these varieties...seedman.com

Grain sorghum comes in white, red and black amber varieties, it is not really suitable for pressing juice from since the canes will be shorter and not carry as much sap.
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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I grew white popping sorghum a few years back. I cracked it and made a hearty breakfast cereal from it. Add honey and yummm. It did need a long cooking time though. boiling it 15 mins and wrapping it up in a hot box overnight worked well.
The location I planted it in did not want to grow anything but grass the next season. I don't remember the source, but somewhere made mention that a legume needed to be planted with it to be able to use the land next season... But I wonder if the old-timers did that. My experience may have been a fluke. However, this year I have made plans to grow some again, with cowpeas.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Sorghum is a heavy N/P/K feeder so yes it will deplete the soil it is grown in.
I plant a mix of sorghums, clovers, cowpeas, buckwheat and kale.
I broadcast this mix for wild game feed plots and I also use it for chop and drop areas that I plan to turn into gardens or orchards in the future.

Back in the 1980's and 90's I worked with farmers in our delta region to come up with a mix that they could simply broadcast with no ground work
for their wildlife feed plot areas. The mix I use is the same one we found to work best for their needs, including making field borders that quail would use.

If you want to plant a full field of Sorghum for food use or making sorghum molasses plant any legume you like along with it to help the soil have recovery ability.
If you do this, you may find you are attracting animals like; deer, turkey, quail, pheasant, dove and others. These animals will benefit from the seed heads, few animals actually eat the stalks or leaves of sorghums.

Cooking with sorghum is more like cooking dried beans than a cereal grain, soak first then cook. The nut like flavor will come through. Pop it just like you would popcorn.
It can also be used in stuffing, just do the pre-cook soak so the seeds are swollen, make the stuffing wetter than normal so it won't come out dry.

On the Historical side, Sorghum origins are in Africa.
The sorghum press is an adaptation of the Sugar Cane Press and was first made for plantation use with mules as the power supply.
It is very possible to build one if you have welding skills.
Antique presses can be found but are fairly rare.
Like Sugar Cane, it takes quite a lot of cane to make a gallon of syrup.
Sorghum Molasses can be used just like the real Molasses including being used to make Rum.

 
Holly Gates
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I planted two types of sorghum for the first time in a few square meters in my Massachusetts zone 6 backyard garden last year (growing in the center right in the attached pic)



None of my grains did great, but the sorghum produced a way higher yield of grain per meter of ground than my oats or wheat did. We ground up the mennonite sorghum and used it to make tasty pancakes. Tried popping the white sorghum but it didn't really pop so we ate it as toasted grain snacks. I don't think the white was fully ripe when I cut it at the end of the season. The Mennonite is supposed to be dual purpose; grain and syrup, but chewing on the stalks they didn't seem sweet to me. Maybe they needed more time or something.

I did a small write up with some pictures on my backyard grain experiment from last year:
http://tooling-up.blogspot.com/2015/04/backyard-grain-maze.html

Anyway, I think sorghum is pretty great. Good production of grain that is easier to process than other small grains, lots of biomass in the stalks for mulch, looks nice while growing. I'd recommend giving it a try.

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I grew popping sorghum decades ago. I really liked that form of sorghum. It was white-seeded, so missing some of the bitter flavors of the red seeded varieties.

Just about all of the plant breeding that I do is non-Mendelian... The basis of traditional plant breeding is "it's in the blood", in other words the idea that offspring tend to resemble their parents and grandparents. Mendelian genetics describes the statistics if you know what you had to start out with. Problem for me is that I don't have access to a DNA lab to know what I started out with... And even if I did, I might not be able to determine what a gene map means. Mendelian genetics looses usefulness quickly if more than a couple of genes are involved in a trait. In all practicality, I am left with traditional plant breeding: choosing offspring from plants that I like in hopes that their children or grandchildren will share the traits that I like.

 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau, Holly, If your plants leaves were not turning brown when you harvested, then the white sorghum was not fully ripened.

When the Mennonite Sorghum is almost ready for pressing, the tips of the leaves will be streaking brown down towards the base, this usually occurs at around 100 days.
Outer leaves that are brown all the way to the base of the plant (approximately 105- 120 days) indicate it is time to test run some canes for sweetness.

Sugar cane makes the true molasses, it is leftovers from the first sugar run.
 
chad Christopher
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Large heavy wood, or stone wheels normally powered via wind mill or animals. I am going to make an assumption that anyone who was growing sorghum, was growing enough, that such a large structure was worth its labor and effort to build. Or vice-versa, since you needed such a large machine, it was only worth growing large amounts. Ranson, maybe you could track down a mexican grocery, or restraunt, tiki bar, something similar. that has a cane press. If you have that type of thing around you, i am sure they would do it for a small fee.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Sweet Sorghum is a syrup made from the juice of Sorghum Cane. In years past it was an important source of sweetener. It came into prominence during the 1850's in the United States. By 1888 total US production was 20,000,000 gallons. An 1896 encyclopedia listed the main states that produced sorghum were Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, and Missouri. It was something that many farms grew to some extent. Many just planted enough for their own use while others grew it as a cash crop. Most neighborhoods had at least one farmer that had a mill and evaporating pan. The farmers in the area would bring their cane to them to be squeezed and cooked into syrup. With the decline of the family farm and the easy access to other sweeteners most of these operations have ceased to exist and only a few die-hards still produce this delicious syrup.
It seems that about every iron foundry produced a cane mill. The designs seem to all be about the same. A Iron frame from which two or three (usually three) rollers were mounted. The smaller mills were usually horse or mule powered while the larger mills were belt driven. Some of the very early mills were made entirely of wood and probably made by the farmer or local blacksmith.

The Chattanooga Plow Co. was established in 1878, and the earliest reference to a cane mill is in a 1886 catalog which shows the 'old red mill'. This is a three roll vertical horse powered mill which was continued in the line with several improvements over the years. The number 12 'improved' on this page was patented Nov. 25,1890. The models #45 and #72 were probably the most popular of the belt driven power mills. There were several variations of these two styles with the differences being in size of gearing and rolls. These mills greatly increased the production possible by the small farmer or local entrepreneur. The #76 had a large 24" X 18" large roll and weighed 8000 lbs. It required 20 horsepower and produced 3000 to 4000 gallons of juice per day.

Chattanooga also made evaporators, portable furnaces and other accessories used in the production of syrup. A catalog of 1913 claimed that "We make more Cane Mills than any Factory in the World."

I know of no cane mill ever made of stone, nor have I found any reference to stone cane mills, those were flour mills as best I can determine.

The vast majority of cane mills were and are still made of steel rollers with gears on the "head" to turn the rollers, even the small ones are expensive. The really big ones were usually steam engine driven. One, the Maasdam Sorghum Mill has been in continuous production since the late 1800's.
 
chad Christopher
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Bryant RedHawk wrote: I know of no cane mill ever made of stone, nor have I found any reference to stone cane mills, those were flour mills as best I can determine.

The vast majority of cane mills were and are still made of steel rollers with gears on the "head" to turn the rollers, even the small ones are expensive. The really big ones were usually steam engine driven. One, the Maasdam Sorghum Mill has been in continuous production since the late 1800's.


I grew up in an area that had one of those last surviving sorghum pressers. He had a modern electric press, but he did have an old press with steel belted wooden, wagon type wheels, and stone (concrete?) Wheel weights. It was a hybrid windmill and animal powered rig. I am just giving my only observations, and assumptions as to how the inventive farmer did it. Apparently he wasn't keen on buying a machine from 'the man'. I am not 100% sure what the setup was, it has been some time, the stone could have been weights, carved roller presses, some type of fly, or balance wheel? Thank you for the research red, as i am interested in this local, and lost art of sorghum syrup. I like it as an alternative to just growing hay, in space i dont have time to maintain, and think it would be a great value added product.

He is still alive, and i visit time to time, maybe i can get some pictures before it gets torn down

I found a picture of what i recall it looks like. Minus the gears. Plus all kind of wonky homemade wheels, shafts and pullies.
http://for91days.com/photos/Savannah/Ebenezer/Sugar-Cane-Press.jpg
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Christopher,

I would love to see a press as you described, I have no doubt that there were some hybrids like that, I just have never found any references to them.
Your personal experience and observation is very helpful to my documentation.
This country was built on the ingenuity of the individuals.
I love hearing about and finding examples of how people made their own tools/machines instead of just purchasing something from a factory. Sweet photo, thank you for the link.
It was not my intention to be negative in any way, sorry if it seemed so.

When I lived in up state New York I found several ancient grist mills still operating and that was really educational.
The farm that our house was on did have a sorghum mill but it was all steel, hand made by the then current owners grandfather back in the 1800's, it was a small press designed to be turned by their draft horses.
Living on the farm (started in 1786) I had access to; an apple orchard planted by Johnny Appleseed (documented), a full blacksmith shop, and other neat items. I learned blacksmithing from the old man that owned the farm
The farm was also known as "the Three Mile Wood" It was the site of the Revolutionary Armies winter camp the year before Valley Forge and I managed to find lots of bits and pieces of the era and the location of the Army camps, all those found relics went to the local historical society, and are on display in Newburgh N.Y.
History and documenting odd ball items and everyday machinery is a hobby of mine. I am a Biologist/Chemist/Horticulturist by College Training. Physics investigation/experimentation is my mind exercise hobby.

Sadly, since I am building a self-sufficient homestead, I will not be purchasing one of the small mills I've managed to find for sale, just to much money for our budget.
I may give a go at building one myself once we are settled into our new lifestyle.

If I find more information on the presses, I'll post links in this thread so you can access the data.

If you have or find any other tidbits of farming history, I am always interested and hope you would feel like sharing knowledge.


 
James Johnstone
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Paul linked to this thread recently, and I see that it is missing the following:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bu0DG8ExAwc&ab_channel=JamesP

This is a drinking song in celebration of the brewing of Sorghum Wine (Gaoliang). It is from the movie "Red Sorghum" (thus the thread relevance) by Zhang Yimou. The lyrics are basically, "Alcohol, alcohol, alcohol, it makes you do crazy things, yea man."

Much Gaoliang today comes from Taiwan, where it is an extremely potent (100+ proof) distilled grain spirit made from a mixture of wheat and sorghum.

Proving once again that really that only reason to grow grain crops is to make alcohol.
 
Wyatt Barnes
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I wonder if it would be viable to adapt a hydraulic wood splitter for pressing needs on a small homestead. Many homesteader types already use splitters and I think that they could be adapted for many farm chores. This is an example of some other things that can be done with a wood splitter design. www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjBVWFy9bsg
 
Casey Lane
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Here (north Florida) I've seen it grown for agritourism corn mazes. The corn here is too far gone by fall when its time for corn mazes. The sorghum makes a more dense and nicer maze.
 
Ken Ward
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There are still sorghum festivals around the country. The one I attended was in Blairsville GA. They will generally have a community sized modern press and a functioning horse or mule powered press for show and operation. There are contact forms on the site. There are usually several folks who would be tickled to share more info than you could digest. blairsvillesorghumfestival.com
 
Heather Holm
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I'm in Nova Scotia, zone 5b or 6a but in a rather cool location near the ocean. Last year, I got some Mennonite Sorghum seeds from AnnapolisSeeds.com, which is located in a warmer part of Nova Scotia. I like sorghum flour for gluten-free baking, so wanted to get to know the plant better.

I started a few indoors under lights then planted them out in a bed which definitely lacks fertility. They grew slowly but got to be 6 ft tall. They eventually flopped over in a wind-and-rain storm in November (picture), so I harvested the grain heads. I haven't tried eating it yet (it's sitting in a jar looking pretty), but I'm intrigued by the idea of popping. I chewed on a stem and it was definitely sweet, but it was obvious that I'd need some kind of press to get anything useful out of it. I've started another small batch indoors and will find a better place for them.


 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Apropos of nothing, "common sorghum" was a word I missed once on a quiz in Chinese class (my undergrad degree was Chinese language - Mandarin). It's now 30 years later and I still remember "gao liang"! Sheesh.
 
Brett Andrzejewski
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I don't have a lot of time on my hands at the moment, but will make a couple comments from my experience with sorghum while at the USDA.

What variety of sorghum for making syrup(topic link)

Sorghum (and sweet sorghum) will go into a starvation mode during drought. I was working with a farmer who didn't get rain for 3 months and the sorghum didn't die, it didn't grow, it was just there waiting for rain.

Grain sorghum, the seed heads, can be used for making beer (gluten free)

Sweet sorghum, stalk, can be used for making juice, syrup/molasses and wine (gluten free)

Sorghum only uses about 1/3 the fertilizer requirements of corn (it is still considered a heavy feeder) and about 1/3 the water as corn too.

Grain sorghum can be used to make a gluten free bread. I've used it to make tortillas when I was in the desert.

Chickens love the seed heads, but some varieties of sorghum are bred to have high tannin content in the seeds. Tannins makes the seeds taste bitter so wild birds don't eat them, but can be removed when cooking by washing, soaking, and baking.

Sorghum can be used in the 3 sisters/4 sister garden with squash and beans.
 
r ranson
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:hau, Holly, If your plants leaves were not turning brown when you harvested, then the white sorghum was not fully ripened.

When the Mennonite Sorghum is almost ready for pressing, the tips of the leaves will be streaking brown down towards the base, this usually occurs at around 100 days.
Outer leaves that are brown all the way to the base of the plant (approximately 105- 120 days) indicate it is time to test run some canes for sweetness.


This is really good to know. Thanks for the tip.

I love this thread, I never dreamed you guys would know so much about sorghum. Awesomeness.
 
r ranson
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More questions:

Since we can malt sorghum grain for beer making, can we make a sweetener from the malted sorghum like we do with other malted grains? If so, anyone tried this?

I noticed some seed companies like rareseeds.com have specific sorghum varities for popping (which I'm guessing is parching). Can all sorghum be used for parching, or only some varieties, or some are just better at it than others? Like with chickpeas, I know some are good for parching, others will break teeth if you try it.
 
Mary Wildfire
Posts: 9
Location: rural West Virginia
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There is a molasses festival in a nearby town here in West Virginia, which has been reduced to selling sorghum molasses bottled elsewhere the last couple years because they couldn't get the machine or the cane, depending who I asked. I grew two kinds of sugar sorghum, Mennonite and Dale. They got, as advertised in the Southern Exposure Seed catalog from which I bought the seed, respectively 9 and 13 feet tall. I made some calls and found someone with a press--he used to bring it to the festival but moving it--and setting up a boiling operation--was such a huge hassle he had stopped doing it. But he was willing to run my cane through the press on the morning he started his own much larger crop. I had six rows about 18 feet long--it looks exactly like corn until it flowers at the top, but it makes rather more tillers--each plant produces about four canes. From this, two bundles I could put my arms around, we got nine gallons of thick green sap, which boiled down into 5 1/2 quarts of molasses--by the time it was done I had acquired a taste for its unique flavor. It boils down at ten to one, compared to maple syrup at 40 to one--but on the other hand the maple sap just flows out of the tree, obviating the need for cultivation and for the mill. That guy gave me unlimited access to his seed heads--he grew Sugar Drip...maybe I should have taken more because my chickens did eat the seed, though without huge enthusiasm, and I ground some in a hand mill for pancakes. It has a similar nutritional profile to corn, and no gluten...not an issue for me but everybody and his sister thinks they need to avoid gluten these days so it's handy to have. I plan to grow it every other year now, but I'm counting on that guy letting me use his press. One other thing--this spring it took a mattock to get the stumps out of the ground, in contrast to the corn and sunflower stumps which had largely rotted and came out readily. Sorghum has HARD stumps.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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Sorghum is a staple for the Dagara of West Africa, that might be a resource to track down. They'd make a mild beer called pito or dan, really refreshing on a hot day (which they have a lot of), and very little alcohol. They also made tow, a porridge. honestly I thought it was horrible, but my tastes may have changed since then (ten years ago). It is probably healthier. Fermenting and soaking grain before eating is good for the health, and frying it in something like shea butter or regular butter is good for the taste factor! Maybe I'll get a beer maker who studied how to brew pito to post on here.
 
William Bronson
Posts: 1491
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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How about steam juicing ? This link quotes someone doing just that with sugar cane.

http://www.simplycanning.com/steam-juicer.html

After you make the juice and ferment it, return it to the steamer for distillation!




Sorghum being as tough as it is, is there a tradition of building with it?
I know they are not the same kind of press, but for small batches could one use a shop press?

http://t.harborfreight.com/20-ton-shop-press-32879.html?utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F


 
R Scott
Posts: 3358
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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you probably could get juice out with that press, but it would be SLOWWWWWWWW.

This is closer to a cane press: http://www.harborfreight.com/tubing-roller-99736.html With properly sized flat dies. There are people that make replacement dies for the HF bender, but they are $$$$ as in more than the bender in the first place. By that time, you might as well buy the right tool.

Sorghum is tough and relatively dry compared to sugar cane, so it is a low margin high volume business to get syrup.
 
Holly Gates
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Location: Somerville, MA
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I'm sure plenty of you have read "Farmers of Forty Centuries" by F.H. King, published in 1911. I just took it in last winter as a paper copy ordered through my excellent library system, and it was super interesting. There are numerous mentions of sorghum in there, which is usually referred to as "kaoliang" or large millet. My wife thought I was crazy, staying up late reading with a headlight on eagerly tearing through passages like this:

---------------------
In the Shantung province, in Chihli and in Manchuria, millet stems, especially those of the great kaoliang or sorghum, are extensively used for fuel and for building as well as for screens, fences and matting. At Mukden the kaoliang was selling as fuel at $2.70 to $3.00, Mexican, for a 100-bundle load of stalks, weighing seven catty to the bundle. The yield per acre of kaoliang fuel amounts to 5600 pounds and the stalks are eight to twelve feet long, so that when carried on the backs of mules or horses the animals are nearly hidden by the load. The price paid for plant stem fuel from agricultural crops, in different parts of China and Japan, ranged from $1.30 to $2.85, U. S. currency, per ton. The price of anthracite coal at Nanking was $7.76 per ton. Taking the weight of dry oak wood at 3500 pounds per cord, the plant stem fuel, for equal weight, was selling at $2.28 to $5.00.
---------------------

I spent some time in Shandong province and travelling around northeast china about 20 years ago, so it was fun to read about growing and intensive organic agriculture done in places I had been.
By the way the chinese for sorghum, 高粱 (gao liang), is direct translated to "High Beam".... weird.

You can find the free ebook version here:
http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/5350/pg5350.html


Heather Holm - Wow, your seed heads look nice. Mine looked pretty weak by comparison, though still yielded a decent amount of easy to thresh grain (pic included below)

Jennifer Wadsworth -
我也學過中文!我在大學的時候,我的專業是電子工程, 可是也學了中文三年。
如果你學過的漢字都像 『高粱』,你的中文一定很厲害!



 
r ranson
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Location: Left Coast Canada
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Wow, great info.

I wonder, how do we process sorghum stocks for building or burning? Dry them I'm guessing.

This year I'm growing a sunflower that is suppose to have stocks that make great burning fuel... only no words on if it needs special processing. I guess it would be a lot like sorghum.

Do we cut them to length before we dry them, would it gum up the tools and make it more difficult? Or do we dry the stocks, then saw them, but then the stocks would be harder to cut.... hmm. Anyone done this? Do we skin them before drying them? Rub bleach solution on it like we would walking stick kale?

I bet a lot of these questions would be much easier to answer if I actually had a sorghum plant to look at. But alas, my seeds are still haven't sprouted.
 
Dorcas Brown
Posts: 23
Location: west central Missouri
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Many years ago I spent a few years on my father-in-law's dairy farm. in Kansas. Many farmers planted a late crop of sorghum. Don't remember reasons but it was a fill-in planting. They used it for filling silos while it was still green. Then if I remember right they grazed the stubble when it put out a few new leaves. -but stopped when frost touched the leaves ( something about freezing made it poisonous). The cows really liked any silage but especially that made with sorghum because it was sweet. Milk production was favorably impacted.

It seems to me that sorghum syrup is milder flavored than molasses. There is some produced locally here in Missouri and I have balked at the price,. After the info about sorghum mills I understand why it is high and will probably buy some next time I see it.
 
Heather Holm
Posts: 13
Location: Nova Scotia
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Last summer I tried growing a few stalks of sorghum again, starting them indoors, and learned how anemic the previous results (photo above) had been. The heads were fuller and there were side branches. I removed the side branches to give the main stocks the best chance of maturing. And then in October, around the time we were starting to get more frost, the seed heads on the best plant filled out and got round, more like Holly's photo above. Tasting the grains, they were quite sweet.

My conclusion is that at my location near a bay off the Atlantic Ocean, we don't have enough heat to grow it efficiently. Further inland in Nova Scotia it might be possible, however; we're usually a few degrees cooler than even a short distance inland.

 
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