(Sorghum bicolor); aka Waconia;
Sorghum is a versatile crop and is historically grown as a sweetener, especially during times of economic hardship. Rox Orange is a robust regional variety developed by the Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station for syrup with a Brix of 10.3. High quality seed heads ensure a good seed crop as well. Additionally, stalks are excellent as silage. Grown like corn, we direct seed sorghum in early June when the soil temperature is above 65 degrees. Sturdy 8-foot tall plants typically reach boot to early heading stage by 75 days and hard dough stage at about the 105 day mark. Plant roughly 50 row feet with an approximate syrup yield of a quart. It takes 10 to 11 gallons of boiled juice to make a gallon of syrup.
We enjoy the grains themselves as a delicious alternative to rice or pasta (see photo.) In a pot with a lid, cover the grains with about an inch of water. Bring to a rolling boil, reduce heat, cover with lid and simmer about 15 minutes for an al-dente firmness. We use a 1/3 cup of grains for six servings.
Resources we've found useful in our sorghum syrup adventures:
Mother Earth News' article Sweet Sorghum Revival: How to Grow Your Own Natural Sweetener
1918 USDA Report has descriptions of 4 major kinds of sorghum (amber, orange, sumac and gooseneck). Amber was developed in Indiana in 1853 from a Chinese sample. Orange is of South African origin with larger stalks and heavier seed heads. Sumac (red top) are from Natal (South Africa) is stout with large broad leaves with the smallest seeds. Gooseneck is also African with a curved "gooseneck" stem with later maturity that prevents its use in the North.
There are not so many 'new' sorghum mills being produced for small scale use these days. This mill from Grainmaker is extremely well made and should last us for several generations.
Packet size options, minimum:
a) 7 grams (1/4 oz)
b) 28 grams (1 oz)
c) Quarter Pound