The answers to the following Frequently Asked Questions were provided by Richard Wittgreve of Wisconsin.
What is Sweet Sorghum? Sweet sorghum is made from 100 percent pure, natural juice extracted from sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench) cane. The juice is cleansed of impurities and concentrated by evaporation in open pans into a clear, amber colored, mild flavored syrup. The syrup retains all of its natural sugars and other nutrients. It is 100 percent natural and contains no chemical additives of any kind.
Where is Sweet Sorghum Grown? Sweet sorghum is grown most extensively for syrup in the south-eastern United States yet making syrup extends from the gulf states, including Texas, north to Wisconsin and West to Kansas, Iowa and Minnesota. Kentucky and Tennessee are the leading states in syrup production.
What is the history of Sweet Sorghum in the U.S.? Sweet sorghum is a grass of Old World origin. The name "sweet sorghum" is used to identify varieties of sorghum, Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench, that are sweet and juicy. A United States patent officer introduced sweet sorghum to American in 1853. It is a native of Africa, a drought-resistant, heat-tolerant member of the grass family.
The Department of Agriculture conducted numerous experiments on the extraction of sucrose from sorghum and on crystallization of sorghum syrup. It was hoped to reduce reliance on cane sugar imports and on slave-hungry sugar plantations. Farmers in the South and lower Midwest welcomed the cheap, local alternative to extract dry sugar from the syrup. But, it proved too difficult to extract dry sugar from the syrup.
The syrup was an important sweetener for many small communities well into this century and even today is still locally important. In the 1860's sorghum cultivation was concentrated in the Midwest, but by the 1890's it had become predominately a southern crop. Production reached a peak of 24 million gallons in the 1880's and then declined over the next century in the face of competition from glucose syrups. By 1975, the U.S. Agricultural Census reported just 2,400 acres producing less than 400,000 gallons of syrup. There has been a recovery from this low production with 25,000 to 30,000 acres planted for syrup today.
What are the Health Benefits? Sorghum contains such hard-to-find nutrients as iron, calcium and potassium. Before the invention of the daily vitamins, many doctors prescribed sorghum as a daily supplement for those low in these nutrients.
How do I Use Sorghum? The versatility of sorghum is being rediscovered by today's nutrition conscious homemakers. They are finding that there is hardly a food served today that sorghum will not improve. Put sorghum over your pancakes, biscuits or toast, as a topping for your ice cream or in Grandmas' treasured recipes for ginger snaps or ginger bread. Sorghum can be used in your stir fry base as well as in your baked beans, its' a great ingredient to add into you homemade breads and can be substituted cup for cup in any recipe that calls for molasses, honey, corn syrup or maple syrup. For today's chef, sorghum is a nutritious flavoring, a seasoning ingredient and a sugar substitute. It is that secret ingredient that gives any food that delicious taste and aroma that spells H-O-M-E-M-A-D-E.
What is the Difference Between Sorghum and Molasses? Molasses is a by-product of the sugar industry, whereas sorghum is the syrup produced when the extracted juice from the sorghum is boiled down.
How Can I Be Sure That I Am Buying Pure Sorghum? The logo seen here was developed by the NSSPPA as a tool to insure that you are buying a pure sorghum product. Each producer in the association is given a number to put on their logo that will quickly identify where and by whom the sorghum was produced. When you see the logo, you know that you are getting pure sorghum, NOT the blend. BE SURE YOU LOOK FOR THE SWEET SORGHUM LOGO.
What if My Sorghum Crystallizes? Sorghum like honey can crystallize, however; putting it in a pan of warm water or putting it in your microwave will restore it to a usable form.
Do I Need to Refrigerate Sorghum? No, sorghum is a natural sweetener and can be treated just like honey. Although refrigeration will not hurt your sorghum, it will make the consistency thicker and harder to spread. Storing at room temperature will keep your product ready to use at all times.
Can Diabetics Use Sorghum as a Sugar Substitute? Sorry, although it is a natural product, it is still a sugar and will effect your blood sugar readings. Consult your physician to see if small amounts can be incorporated into your diet.
Where Can I Purchase Sweet Sorghum? Click here for more information.