From porridge to popcorn: how to cook with the ancient grain sorghum

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It’s one of the most widely eaten staples in the world, yet little known in the UK. Here’s why this healthy, sustainable food should be on everyone’s shopping list

It may be an issue with branding, concedes Roxana Jullapat. Sorghum sounds odd – and not especially delicious. “I do wonder: why did quinoa get a chance and sorghum didn’t?” says Jullapat, who runs the Los Angeles bakery Friends & Family. She is also the author of Mother Grains: Recipes for the Grain Revolution. It is a cookbook, but also a love letter to whole grains and a manifesto for weaning people off wheat. Although Jullapat covers other “ancient” grains – including rye, oat and barley – in the book, sorghum is probably the least familiar to most readers in the UK.

Originating in Africa, where it is eaten widely, sorghum made its way to the southern US, probably with enslaved people. Later, it became an important crop – particularly for the sweet sorghum molasses made from it – to African American families in the south; the culinary historian Michael W Twitty has talked about reclaiming sorghum. It is popular in the Middle East and east Asia, too. It is a very weather-resistant crop and can be grown in a densely populated way, which makes it valuable in terms of food security.

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