Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sorghum stories

At a recent farmers market, our kids were delighted to find sorghum, a sugar-cane like plant that can be chewed for its sweet pulp. I didn’t know much about sorghum, but learned it was once a cash crop in Wisconsin.

My mom told me her father used to grow it near Fort Atkinson. She remembers as a girl in the 1930s riding atop a truckload of sorghum with her sister, Ruth, when my grandfather’s truck stalled on a hill and rolled backward out of control. It hit a tree, throwing both girls to the ground with slight injuries. He was taking the load to a sorghum mill, which would extract the juice and boil it into sorghum syrup. They used it on pancakes and bread.

Anyway, sorghum is still produced here. At Rolling Meadows Sorghum Mill in Elkhart Lake, Richard Wittgreve turned sorghum syrup into a niche product. After failing to find a jar of sorghum to buy in 1984, Wittgreve decided to try making his own. He produced 6 gallons of syrup with his first crop. Then he got serious and built mechanical harvesting equipment for a certified food-processing operation. He now makes more than 1,300 gallons a year. He’s at 9030 Little Elkhart Lake Road, Elkhart Lake, WI 53020. Phone (920) 876-2182.


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