By Harold McGee
Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) evolved in the steppes and savannas of central and south Africa, was domesticated there around 2000 BCE, and soon after was taken to India and then to China. Thanks to their tolerance of drought and heat, sorghums have become established in most warm countries with marginal croplands. The fruits are small, around 4 mm long and 2 mm wide, and are boiled like rice, popped, and used in many different variations on porridges, flatbreads, couscous, and beers. Sorghum shouldn’t be sprouted; as the seed germinates, it produces a protective cyanide-generating system.