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The Comeback of Grain Sorghum

The Comeback of Grain Sorghum

A long-forgotten grain variety, grain sorghum is a pseudo-cereal which, being gluten-free, is basking in the limelight on the stage of new dietary requirements.

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The rediscovery of ancient cereals seems to have become an authentic culinary treasure hunt, involving food bloggers and chefs inspired by sustainable nutrition, in which the winners are those who manage to unearth long-forgotten cereals to confer a fresh allure to our everyday menus. In recent years, we have restored food cupboard status to cereals and grassy grains such as amaranth and millet, and we have also been seduced by the legends presented by marketing gurus, telling of ancient grains discovered in the clenched hands of Egyptian pharaoh mummies. Grain sorghum seems to be one of the latest rediscoveries of this kind and is finding its way into the menus of vegetarian haute cuisine. There is no doubt that a long-forgotten grain variety guarantees its immunity from significant genetic modifications, and the integrity of its original nutritional properties.

What is Sorghum?

Sorghum is a pseudo-cereal which, being gluten-free, is basking in the limelight on the stage of new dietary requirements/habits. Of its many varieties, the most widely used are the red and yellow types; it originates from Africa but today, South America and the United States are the leading exporters (the state of Kansas being the number one producer). Today, as in the past, it has various uses, some of which are truly gourmet: in several vegetarian restaurants in Italy, it's served softly wrapped in creamy vegetables as though it were a risotto (called "sorgotto"), and imagination is the main ingredient in this recipe that may vary from one season to another. Boiled in a small amount of water, it is perfect for teaming up with salads, just like quinoa, better still if it still has a slight bite to it.

How to Use Sorghum Flour

Sorghum flour, on its own, is not suitable for making bread and focaccia but can be used to reinforce other gluten-free flours; on the other hand, red sorghum flour can be used to make a brightly coloured polenta for serving with a mushroom and tomato sauce. It is being valorised by some star-chefs like Sean Brock, winner of the 2014 James Beard Award, who explains in his successful cookery book entitled Heritage that this ingredient can occupy a rightful place in contemporary cooking, and evokes southern atmospheres when he recalls that, in the autumn season, peasant communities used to cut down the highest plants to boil them and produce a sort of sweet syrup.

Honorable Mention for Sorghum Syrup

The cultivation of sorghum was introduced to the United States in 1853 to reduce the nation’s dependence on imported cane sugar that had already been processed. So it was that the grassy stalks of this plant were exploited for the extraction of sorghum syrup which now occupies a place of honour on organic food shelves right next to his majesty, the maple syrup. So, why not take advantage to sweeten our desserts or create a voluptuous topping for waffles and pancakes using a low-calorie product. We do not know whether we can equal the US syrup production of 1888, which amounted to 20,000,000 gallons (about 76 million litres in one year), but the return to family farms and a reduced consumption of refined sugar kindles our hope for a future that resembles times gone by, and is naturally sweeter than today.

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