Sugar Drip (Sweet Sorghum)
This sweet sorghum cane grows up to 12' tall with seed heads that turn amber red when mature. Thick, juicy stalks make for mighty fine sorghum syrup once squeezed and boiled down over a wood fire. Thrives in the heat. Drought tolerant. This is a relatively early-maturing variety that can often be helpful in beating the sugarcane aphid that tends to arrive later in the season.
This crop, originally from Africa, has a deep history in Southern Appalachia as a self-sufficient sweetener as well as a multipurpose, low maintenance, and high yielding plant that grew well with the animal-powered holler farming typical of the area. The cane is great for making wood-fired sorghum syrup, which has many delicious culinary applications including stack cakes and molasses cookies, but I most enjoy it atop a warm and buttered slice of cornbread. The seed heads can be used as a gluten-free grain for humans (I'm furthering my experiments with milling it this winter!) The leaves, stripped prior to juicing the cane, as well as the seed heads also make great fodder for animals.
Days to maturity: 120-140
Seeds per pack: 80
Germination rate: 87% on 01/28/2021
Planting / harvesting notes
Needs full sun and thrives in warm climates. Direct seed 1/4" into well-drained soil once the danger of frost has passed. Chelsea Askew has seeded this several ways: by hand; using an Earthway seeder with a spinach plate; and using a tractor mounted Covington single-row planter with a sorghum plate. All methods require thinning. Thin to 8"-12" in row. Best to harvest cane for molasses when seed head has turned from the milk stage to soft dough and the external color from green to an amber red.
Seed keeping notes
While sorghum is generally self pollinating, people concerned with unwanted cross pollination should isolate various varieties of S. bicolor (including Johnson grass) by 990 feet. Alternatively, you can plant your different sorghums closer together and bag the plants' tassels when they emerge with weather resistant corn tassel bags, or with paper bags in drier climates. Allowing the seed heads to reach the hard dough stage is best when harvesting for seed.