Sep 14, 2016

Let’s Talk About Sorghum

By MaryAnn Miano

September 13 has been dubbed “National Celiac Disease Awareness Day” in honor of the doctor who identified a link between celiac disease and diet. Dr. Samuel Gee, a leader in celiac disease research, was born on September 13, 1839. One of his famous quotes on celiac disease is, “If the patient can be cured at all, it must be by means of diet.”

The main thing to do, for anyone who has been diagnosed with celiac disease, is to consume a gluten-free diet. There is an ingredient that can help people with celiac disease safely enjoy foods typically forbidden. It is called sorghum.

Sorghum flour is a gluten-free ancient cereal grain growing in dry climates due to its high tolerance to drought. The earliest record of sorghum comes from an archaeological dig at Nabta Playa, near the Egyptian-Sudanese border, and is dated as far back as 8,000 B.C. From there it spread throughout Africa and was probably brought to American with slave traders. It is cultivated to produce sorghum syrup, a sweetener, and can also be used to brew beer and other alcohol. It is used as feed for livestock and can also be turned into ethanol. The U.S. has become the largest producer of sorghum, the fifth most important cereal crop in the world.

Sorghum flour’s gluten-free property has caused its popularity in food usage to rise as more people are adopting gluten-free diets. It is slightly sweet, with a relatively neutral flavor, and is a good source of protein, iron, and fiber. Used in bread recipes and for heartier baked goods like pastries and pies, it is a welcome substitute to the 60,000 diagnosed sufferers and perhaps the millions of undiagnosed celiac patients. The grain itself can even be popped like popcorn!

There is lots of good news about sorghum beyond it being gluten-free. It produces high yields even through tough environmental conditions, whether drought or flood. Extremely efficient to grow, it takes much less fertilizer and irrigation to grow sorghum. Sorghum does not have an inedible hull like so many other grains, so eating its outer layers helps retain its nutrients. It is non-GMO, and a variety of sorghum grains are high in anti-oxidants. Sorghum also has a waxy layer around it that contains compounds called “policosanols,” believed to have cholesterol-lowering properties comparable to that of statins. Though studies are limited, people with autism, ADHD, and IBS are turning to a gluten-free diet, as well.

Why is sorghum so easy to use in place of wheat flour? For the most part, the neutrality of its flavor and light color make it easily adaptable to many dishes. It improves the texture of baked goods and digests slowly, making it low on the glycemic index. With sorghum flour, foods like muffins, breads, pizza, pastas, casseroles, cookies, cakes, and pies are welcome again. It is common to help the sorghum flour along with binders such as xanthan gum or cornstarch. This gives the stretch needed in dough and other kinds of recipe mixes.

The Recipe of the Month comes to you by way of www.wholegrainscouncil.org. It’s the perfect recipe to welcome autumn. Be sure to top it with ice cream or whipped cream!

RECIPE OF THE MONTH

GLUTEN FREE APPLE CRISP

INGREDIENTS:

For the fruit filling:

4 cups sliced apples (peeled and cored)

½ teaspoon cinnamon

For the crumble topping:

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or trans-free margarine

¾ cup of sugar or brown sugar

¾ cup sorghum flour (try “Bob’s Red Mill” brand)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Slice apples into an 8” x 8” inch greased pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
  3. Combine crumble ingredients and sprinkle evenly over apples.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F. for approximately 1 hour or until topping turns light brown.

Note: If you care to use less sugar and butter for the crumble topping, try the following: ¾ cup sorghum flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup butter or trans-free margarine.