Sorghum for syrup and ethanol

Last year we grew 4 kinds of sorghum in our new lower garden.  Aside from making  a great wind break, we were testing various varieties for alcohol (ethanol) production.

On 9/25/11 we harvested a few stalks to see what we got.   I chewed on a small stalk and it tasted just like candy, very sweet.

We watched several videos on making sorghum syrup, but of course we don’t have the equipment.  Here’s a cool video:

The most important part is that machine they feed the stalks through.  Everything else is fairly easy to do small scale.

We didn’t find much for smaller scale processing, but somewhere using a food processor was suggested.

So we peeled the stalks and cut them into 1 – 2 inch pieces and put them in our food processor.  We almost killed the food processor, those stalks are HARD.

As you can see here, we cooked the processed sorghum and then put it through this strainer.

 

Then we cooked the liquid down to syrup and we actually ended up with about a cup and a half of syrup.

Since we didn’t want to break the food processor and we were rather busy, we decided to put the leftovers in a huge old pot and we set it in the greenhouse to see what would happen.

 

It started to bubble, so I suppose one could just cut up the stalks and put them in a big container for alcohol.  We just threw it away eventually since we didn’t have a still.  It smelled pretty bad when you took the lid off.

I liked the syrup and I’d love to make more next season, but we really need some better equipment to process it.

We’re not planning on acres of sorghum, but between its use as a wind break, getting some syrup, alcohol and seeds, it seems like a rather useful plant.  And it grew a LOT better than the corn.

 

12 Responses to Sorghum for syrup and ethanol

  1. When I was in Mexico twenty years or so ago, a local vendor of juice drinks had a hand-cranked machine that he used to juice sugar cane. I suspect that it would handle sorghum and reduce it to juice and pith as easily, but I have no idea as to the source.

  2. Hand-cranking would be a lot of work, but definitely doable for our small scale operation. Thanks for the tip, have to do some more web searches.

    Another suggestion I got was to modify a lawnmower. Of course there aren’t many lawnmowers out here in the desert and I haven’t actually seen anyone mow a lawn since I moved here in 2000.

    It is about time to start some sorghum seeds, last year we planted very late.

  3. I am interested in permaculture solutions for protecting Sorghum from Striga spp. (esp. S. asiatica, S. gesnerioides, and S. hermonthica). Are there methods of guild planting or of harnesing soil microbiology that protects Sorghum from this parasite?

    • Unfortunately I know nothing about Striga spp., but if you get more info, I’d be very interested!

      We haven’t been growing much sorghum in part because we have yet to find a way to process it and also because we bought a 2nd acre, planted 25 fruit trees this spring and then had all sorts of “stuff” happening. I have only 1 little sorghum plant right now.

      Next season I definitely will plant a lot of sorghum again, it does great here in our alkaline soil and harsh climate — even if it’s just for windbreaks.

      • Striga is the genus of a parasitic plant that does not photosynthesize, but fixes itself to the roots of Sorghum to get sugars. It is responsible for huge crop losses in Africa.

        • Are you in Africa? Has it been found in the US? I would hope that INTERPLANTING with corn or completely different crops would help, they haven’t done any trials in Africa?

          • I am currently working at the Faculty of Plant Sciences, Group Molecular Biology, at the University of Wageningen, The Netherlands.
            It is found in the USA where chemical control methods are used to keep it under control. These chemical methods are too expensive for African subsistence farmers. Polycultures and companion planting methods have been employed with some degree of success. Look up the subject on the Internet to find out more.

  4. Thanks for the info, wouldn’t use the chemicals if they were free.

    I realize it’s a lot more work to plant / cultivate and harvest with polyculture, but considering that they’re likely not using $300,000 equipment in Africa, I hope they’ll be able to control striga without chemicals while also improving the soil.

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