Digital Heritage Moment: Sorghum

Photo courtesy of Great Smoky Mountains National Park Archive

Sorghum, or sorghum molasses as it is sometimes called, was (along with honey) a main sweetener in the mountains. Sorghum cane was brought to America from Africa in the 19th century. Most communities had a sorghum mill. Farmers brought their cane to the mill. There the 6-to-12-foot stalks were crushed between rollers powered by a mule walking in a circle. The resulting juice was boiled down in large pans to a thick, sweet syrup. The syrup was poured over pancakes and biscuits, and used as an ingredient to flavor cakes, cookies and candy. Some people in the mountains still prefer it as a sweetener, and a few still make it, but consumption of sorghum has now been surpassed by the granulated white sugar bought in grocery stores.

Digital Heritage Moments are produced at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. To learn more, visit digitalheritage.org. You may also hear Digital Heritage Moments each weekday on radio stations WKSF-FM, WWCU-FM, WMXF-AM, WPEK-AM and WWNC-AM.

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