The earliest documentation of the domestication of sorghum has been linked to North East Africa, near the Khemet-Sudanese border (Modern day “Egypt”) around 8,000 BC. Although attributed to Ben Franklin, sorghum was brought to the United States when our Nananom Nsamanfo/Ancestors were forced upon the lands in North America. Our Elders brought their language, their culture, their spiritual practices, and their food.
The sorghum grain is used in puddings, bread, candy, and syrup here in the States The inedible parts were used as broom ends. We did not call our practices zero waste. We moved accordingly to nature.
Cane sugar is a production of forced African labor, torture, and enslavement. To consume cane sugar, was equivalent to literal and figurative cannibalism to our enslaved Ancestors/Nananom Nsamanfo and the so-called abolitionists.
To combat that, sorghum sugar was produced by the ingenuity of our African parents.
Back home in Ghana, we use the leaves to cook our rice and beans to introduce a burgundy color and enhance flavor.
Sorghum is not only a staple food in many African countries, but it also has cultural and spiritual significance. In Ghana, sorghum is used in traditional beer brewing ceremonies and is considered a sacred crop. It is often used in offerings to ancestors during spiritual rituals and ceremonies.
Sorghum is also a drought-tolerant crop that can grow in harsh environmental conditions, making it an important crop for food security in many African countries. It is a resilient crop that has helped communities survive during periods of drought and famine.
In addition to its culinary and cultural uses, sorghum has numerous health benefits. It is high in fiber, protein, and antioxidants, and is also gluten-free. Studies have shown that consuming sorghum can help lower cholesterol, improve digestion, and promote healthy blood sugar levels.
Despite its many benefits, sorghum has often been overshadowed by other crops in the global market. However, there is a growing interest in sorghum and its potential as a sustainable, nutritious, and culturally significant crop. As more people become aware of the benefits of sorghum, there is hope that it will become more widely grown and consumed around the world.
Sorghum is not just a grain, but a vital part of African culture, history, and identity. Its use in food, spiritual practices, and traditional medicine reflects the deep connection that African communities have with the land and the natural world. As we continue to learn about the importance of sustainable agriculture and traditional food practices, it is important to remember the role that crops like sorghum have played in shaping our cultural heritage and nourishing our bodies and souls.
This weekend I bring a connection to Africans everywhere with the sorghum leaf which we call waakye in Ghana.
The syrup is made with the intention to revitalize, inspire and reconnect with our Mother. It is red, like the rice we consume, in coastal Ghana, and sweet like the pulled gingerbread we’ve created in Southern homes.