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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

sorghum Sorghum bicolor (formerly vulgare), a cereal related and similar to and sometimes confused with millet, is an important staple food of the upland, drier parts of Africa and India. In other parts of the world it is chiefly grown as animal fodder. It is native to Africa, and was probably first cultivated in Ethiopia between 4000 and 3000 bc. It spread thence to W. Africa, the Near East, India, and China, and later to the New World.

In appearance sorghum is a typical grass with long, flat leaves and large, feathery seed heads. The main cultivated varieties vary considerably in the colour of the seeds and in the size of the plant. The tallest may reach a height of 6 m (20'); but dwarf varieties, low enough to be harvested by machinery, have also been developed.