Making sorghum – Part 1

I am far too excited to write only one post about how the sorghum harvest went this year so please humor me and allow me to write two posts.  You may recall that on a wild hair (or two hairs actually), I ended up buying two cane mills and planting sorghum this spring.  The sorghum grew and I finally got around to fixing up one of the two mills.  My brother and I finally harvested it last weekend.

Cutting sorghum cane
A start on cutting the sorghum cane
Cutting sorghum cane
Stripping sorghum leaves

But let me back up.  The sorghum grew pretty well once it started growing.  I planted a patch around 50’x50′ and it produced a lot of nice canes and beautiful red seed heads.  But, of course, time got in the way and it did what sorghum does when you ignore it and don’t harvest when it needs to be harvested.  It fell over (which is called lodging).  I have read where it might be caused by a number of things but in the end, it adds difficulty to harvesting mechanically and may ruin the canes even if they can be harvested.

Cutting sorghum cane
Sorghum makes everything sticky
Harvesting sorghum cane
We both enjoyed drinking sweet juice from the canes

Luckily, we got into the field pretty quickly after it started so all of the canes were in good shape although we lost all of the seeds that I otherwise had planned to save and grind into sorghum flour.  So, next year I will try to beat the lodging and save the seeds.

Harvesting sorghum cane
The first few sorghum canes

So, my brother and I took turns swinging the machete to cut the stalks at the ground while the other stripped leaves from the cane.  The leaves aren’t harmful to the sorghum exactly but apparently they add a bitter taste to the finished sorghum syrup.  I suppose we spent an hour or two harvesting the patch.  It seemed like a small job but it turned out to be a lot more work than we expected.  It’s also sticky and dirty work as the sugar content of sorghum cane is pretty high.

Harvesting sorghum cane
More cane…still early on but I think it looked really nice

We tied the canes into my brother’s trailer and hit the road to my parents’ house around 4pm…their place is around 6 hours away so we rode sticky and sweaty and dirty and had a long day.  The plan had always been to harvest and process the cane at our place so we could have an old fashioned neighborhood pressing party like they used to do a hundred years ago.  We ran out of time though so decided to have a pressing party at my childhood home where we were planning to visit anyhow.  Still, I was on the edge of giddy as I had my first crop of sorghum cane harvested!

I’ll write more in my next post about pressing and cooking the syrup that was in the cane.  Harvesting, it turns out, was the easy part!

My cane mill/sorghum stuff

10 thoughts on “Making sorghum – Part 1

  1. Doggonit! Walking Dead, Downton Abbey, Sherlock, and Breaking Bad all leave me hanging—and now you! There better be a post tomorrow!
    PS…Did you plant it on the DeLux Deer Shed property? If so, how did you get the bees to leave you alone as you were harvesting?

  2. You just did get there in time all right. The only thing you did not do, and what is a recommended procedure to increase the sugar content and prevent bitterness in the canes was to blade it and let it stand for several days before harvesting.That also protects the canes in case of a light frost. I hate it that you lost all the seed; was hoping to get some from you to plant next year.

    I am looking forward to seeing how you cooked it down without an evaporator–although knowing you, you probably rigged one up McGiver-style out of a car hood, baler twine and a blowtorch 🙂

  3. You must have photochopped at least one of those pictures. I swear I have more hair than that.

  4. Really looking forward to the rest of the story. I have always wondered how sorghum was harvested.

  5. Ceecee – we planted it at the property. It was planted on the other side of our property from the bees so I suspect that kept them away…also aster are blooming and it is probably easier picking for them!

  6. Granny Sue – I decided to make a third installment to discuss that…it wasn’t really all that clever though…I hate to disappoint!

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