Sorghum, other ancient grains grow on college campuses

In some parts of the world, sorghum accounts for as much as 40% of consumers’ diets, but in the United States, it’s not yet a staple. On some college campuses, though, that may be about to change. Thanks to more students showing an interest in plant-based cuisine, as well as a more intense focus on healthy options, ancient-grain options, including sorghum, are becoming more common on college campus menus.

According to Ignite menu data, 95% of college and university foodservice facilities offer dishes with ancient grains in them, but the top grains include popular, well-known options such as quinoa and barley. Sorghum, which offers a complex nutritional profile, has been a smaller player on menus. But with increased awareness as well as more convenient options becoming available, its popularity is expected to grow in coming years.

Why ancient grains—and why sorghum?

Thanks to being packed with vitamins and other nutrients such as protein and complex carbohydrates, ancient grains are popping up on menus a lot more. According to Technomic’s 2019 College & University Consumer Trend Report, 51% of students say it’s important to eat healthy and pay attention to nutrition. What’s more, younger diners are redefining what health means: No longer does a healthy item simply mean it’s low in fat or calories. Rather, they seek items that are less processed and that are free from certain ingredients, such as preservatives and artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners.

Ancient grains are a great option for operators looking to introduce more whole foods and vegetarian options to the menu. Sorghum, for instance, is a gluten-free grain that offers 4 grams of protein in every half-cup serving. It also contains nutrients such as fiber, potassium, iron, magnesium, vitamin B6 and niacin.

Fully cooked products make menu prep fast

One of the barriers to putting sorghum and some other ancient grains on menus has been the longer cooking times they require. For instance, sorghum grains typically take one to two hours to cook fully, which can be a hard thing to work around in a busy college cafeteria. However, Furmano Foods offers a great solution to this problem: fully cooked sorghum and other grains that simply need to be heated (or chilled) and served. With these ready-to-use grains, crafting delicious dishes is fast and simple.

Menu inspiration

Sorghum can, of course, be used as part of a grain bowl. Restaurant Blue Smoke in New York City, for instance, features sorghum grains in its Chicken Club Bowl, which also includes mixed greens, smoked chicken, bacon, cheddar, tomato and cornbread croutons. For college and university foodservice facilities, this type of menu item would work perfectly and can be offered as a customizable option, too: Let diners choose their own toppings for a meal they’re sure to love.

Sorghum can also be used as an add-on in soups to make it more filling, as a breakfast porridge like oatmeal and more.

Fully cooked sorghum from Furmano Foods makes it easier than ever to incorporate ancient grains on the menu. To learn more, visit furmanosfs.com/product/sorghum.

This post is sponsored by Furmano’s