The Accidental Smallholder Forum

Growing => Vegetables => Topic started by: naturelovingfarmer on May 23, 2021, 05:19:45 pm

Title: The Pancake Plant
Post by: naturelovingfarmer on May 23, 2021, 05:19:45 pm
As you lack a grains board, I put this in vegetables. I hope that's okay.

The pancake plant is a fun name for Sorghum (scientific name: Sorghum bicolor). It is so called because you can harvest grain and syrup from the same plant. Harvest is done when seeds reach dough stage, the seed heads and leaves are cut from standing canes, and then the canes are cut down with either a kick-knife or a machete. The canes are pressed in a roller mill like sugarcane, and the collected sap is boiled to make syrup.

There are 2 grades for Syrup, a light syrup resembling honey is Grade A, a dark syrup resembling molasses is grade B. Grade B is the most common and the preference of most people. It should be noted that I prefer grade A for it's lack of bitterness. The grade b syrup has a balanced bittersweet flavor, much like beer or dark chocolate. The bitterness has an almondy sort of flavor. It's an acquired taste. Most people like it though, so even if you've never had it before, you'll probably like it. Sorghum doesn't crystalize like sugarcane or maple. It will always be a syrup.

The grain can be prepared as popcorn, or ground into flour. Sorghum flour is like maize flour, it doesn't form a dough, but it can be made into cakes and pancakes because it's good for batters. You can make muffins with it.

I'm growing my second year here. This year, I'm planting 2 lbs of seed. It would fill a bag that holds 5 lbs of sugar, but it's not that heavy. I think at my usual spacing, it should fill the 2 plots I have set aside. That's 2-3 inches apart along the row, and rows 1 ft apart. The soil is unimproved other than a bit of dolomite lime. That's intentional. Poor soil makes sweeter canes, but don't let it experience a lack of water. Drought stresses can make the canes toxic. They really need water.

The sorghum isn't bothered by most wildlife. It's too tall for raccoons and deer to eat the grain, and you only have to worry about birds if you let the seed go unharvested too long. It's livestock you have to keep away. They'll eat the heck out of the sorghum because it's so sweet.

Sprouting the seeds before planting them is important, and putting cinnamon or chile on the sprouts to deter moles when you plant them is important. Planting is extremely easy. You need not plough at all unless the plot has sod on it. Just make a crevice into which to plant the sprouts, and step on it to seal it up. No major disturbance is needed.
Title: Re: The Pancake Plant
Post by: doganjo on May 24, 2021, 12:31:55 pm
Cultivated sorghum, sorghum bicolor, is grown in the UK as game cover due to its dense tall foliage.  Otherwise known as great millet - parrots and budgies like it
Title: Re: The Pancake Plant
Post by: naturelovingfarmer on May 25, 2021, 04:14:38 pm
Cultivated sorghum, sorghum bicolor, is grown in the UK as game cover due to its dense tall foliage.  Otherwise known as great millet - parrots and budgies like it

You don't eat it yourself? Is there a cultural reason or has it just never occurred to you guys that you could eat it? It's considered both traditional (since colonial times) and a health food here. People with wheat and barley allergies drink beer made from sorghum malt. It's not as full bodied, but it tastes pretty good.
Title: Re: The Pancake Plant
Post by: Q on May 25, 2021, 05:35:41 pm
I like the syrup part of your post and even looked (on ebay) for some seeds - pricey for low amount of seeds I thought
Couple of questions - whats the real difference between red and white seed?    then I was thinking couldn't i just sow some budgie seed?  :eyelashes:
Title: Re: The Pancake Plant
Post by: doganjo on May 26, 2021, 12:35:22 pm
I like the syrup part of your post and even looked (on ebay) for some seeds - pricey for low amount of seeds I thought
Couple of questions - whats the real difference between red and white seed?    then I was thinking couldn't i just sow some budgie seed?  :eyelashes:
That thought occurred to me.  Sow some millet - you can get it from pets at home in bunches  :excited:
Title: Re: The Pancake Plant
Post by: naturelovingfarmer on May 28, 2021, 03:55:19 am
I don't think it's related to regular millet. And the seed color doesn't really matter. If you you're going to be milling it, it will affect the color of the meal, and to a lesser extent, the food made from it, but it doesn't really do anything besides being colorful. Same as with maize. I have seeds that are large and white if it helps. It's the size of shortgrain rice.
Title: Re: The Pancake Plant
Post by: Fleecewife on May 28, 2021, 10:30:05 am
Cultivated sorghum, sorghum bicolor, is grown in the UK as game cover due to its dense tall foliage.  Otherwise known as great millet - parrots and budgies like it

You don't eat it yourself? Is there a cultural reason or has it just never occurred to you guys that you could eat it? It's considered both traditional (since colonial times) and a health food here. People with wheat and barley allergies drink beer made from sorghum malt. It's not as full bodied, but it tastes pretty good.

We tend to eat Amaranth and Quinoa as our 'health grains' here.
Title: Re: The Pancake Plant
Post by: naturelovingfarmer on May 28, 2021, 12:42:01 pm
Cultivated sorghum, sorghum bicolor, is grown in the UK as game cover due to its dense tall foliage.  Otherwise known as great millet - parrots and budgies like it

You don't eat it yourself? Is there a cultural reason or has it just never occurred to you guys that you could eat it? It's considered both traditional (since colonial times) and a health food here. People with wheat and barley allergies drink beer made from sorghum malt. It's not as full bodied, but it tastes pretty good.

We tend to eat Amaranth and Quinoa as our 'health grains' here.

Those are both native to the Americas... LOL Quinoa is from the Andes mountains and vicinity, and amaranth is basically everywhere, but the largest grain variety is from central Mexico while the dye variety (it makes a magenta color on wool) is from the 4 corners region in the US. I've grown ornamental and grain types, but mostly ate the leaves in salads. It's like spinach but without the gritty feeling from oxalic acid.
Title: Re: The Pancake Plant
Post by: Fleecewife on May 28, 2021, 04:10:05 pm
Do you know if the garden variety known as Love Lies Bleeding is also useful for fibre dyeing?  Sounds a good colour.


I forgot to mention that the Scot's preferred grain is oats, a great alternative to wheat and easy to grow in our cold wet climate.
Title: Re: The Pancake Plant
Post by: SallyintNorth on May 28, 2021, 04:45:43 pm
I have eaten millet when WWOOFing.  I like it, not sure why we don't eat more of it.  It's a tastier filler-upper than couscous or quinoa, imo.  I think the first place I ate millet was a WWOOF host in Wales, where they grew their own oats and milled them for their livestock and chickens :/

Having said that, I can't remember the last time I bought any millet - but oats is a staple for me.  I have porridge every morning, often stir oats into yoghurt, prefer cakes and biscuits made with oats.  I avoid wheat these days but if I have to eat it, it has to be spelt.  A dark rye sourdough is my favourite bread, and I eat very little bread that isn't sourdough now.  I use couscous with salads.  I don't mind quinoa but never buy it or cook it myself. 

I might get some millet next time I am in the local health food shop, now you've reminded me of it.  Thanks! 
Title: Re: The Pancake Plant
Post by: naturelovingfarmer on June 01, 2021, 06:31:46 pm
Really the best part is the syrup. It does have good grain, but the syrup is the most important part. As it becomes more important to eat local for the sake of the planet, we should try to rely less on tropical sugar and grow our own instead. Sorghum is a tasty alternative to cane sugar, and can be used as a replacement for honey or molasses. Maple sugar can replace white sugar. And Maize stalk syrup can replace the chemically processed corn syrup. Beets also make good white sugar but at lower yields than Sorghum per acre. As Sorghum has not been widely utilized yet, it is possible that it could be made into table sugar, but no known attempts to do so have been tried. Malt syrups might be a way forward as well. Although not as sweet tasting, it is still useful in the kitchen when light caramel-like sweetness is desired. I could see it gaining popularity in desserts such as pies in combination with sugars that are more sweet like maple or beet. 
Title: Re: The Pancake Plant
Post by: Fleecewife on June 01, 2021, 06:43:07 pm
In the UK we do grow our own sugar on a large scale, from sugar beet, which is well suited to our climate.  Buying cane sugar is  left from supporting our Colonies, so now perhaps more historic.  My Granny always ate cane sugar in spite of being surrounded by sugar beet fields where she lived in The Fens.
I don't use sugar at all, so no choice there for me.