Sorghum – Sorghum bicolor

Ripe sorghum
Ripe sorghum

….I helped to strip the cane in the field, 
And hauled it to the mill, 
To make it into sorghum, 
And I can taste it still….

By Ruby F. Rippy 

This grass provides a grain that is the life sustaining staple for many of the world’s poorest. It originated in Africa, specifically Egypt, but is currently not known in the wild, only under cultivation. Sorghum was introduced to North America in 1850 from China.


‘Reported to be anti-abortive, cyanogenetic, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, intoxicant, and poison, sorghum is a folk remedy for cancer, epilepsy, flux, and stomachache’ (Duke and Wain, 1981).


There are several varieties…white grained is eaten as meal or cereal; the red grained is used for brewing beer as it is bitter in taste. A sugar syrup is obtained by crushing the stems. It can also be popped like popcorn!


In North America it’s most frequent use is as animal fodder. The white colored sorghum is the preferred grain for this use. The stems can be used to weave fences, mats and wattle. The flowering tops can be used as brushes or brooms.


Just a word of warning: Hydrogen cyanide can be found in the leaves and stems that are damaged or unripe. In horses and cattle that graze on this can have a spontaneous abortion, incoordination, urinary incontinence, coma, convulsions, cyanosis, dyspnea, staggering, and ultimately death is possible!

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