Researchers at Texas A&M University are seeking ways to make sorghum pop as well as popcorn.


Make whole grains unique through sprouting or popping

Methods exist to give whole grains unique qualities while keeping them whole. Sprouting the grains may add nutritional and flavor qualities. Besides popcorn, more grains may be popped, too. Research is focusing on popping sorghum.

A “sprouted” grain is a brief phase of the growth process after the grain/seed has begun to sprout before it becomes a fully developed plant, according to Puratos Corp., which has its U.S. headquarters in Cherry Hill, N.J. It is believed that during the phase certain nutrients become more abundant and certain minerals become easier to absorb, Puratos said.

The company recently launched Sapore Softgrain Sprouted Grain CL, the sixth preservative-free addition to its Sapore Softgrain range. The presoaked blend of sprouted whole rye, wheat and triticale grains are infused with a mild fermentation flavor, according to Puratos. The Sapore Softgrain Sprouted Grain CL adds a touch of roasted crusty flavor to multigrain soft and crusty bread, buns and crackers.

Bay State Milling’s BeneGrain line of sprouted grains and seeds are available in such forms as wheat, rice flour, amaranth, millet, quinoa, chia, brown flax, rye and sorghum.

“BeneGrain sprouted wheat flour incorporated at 100% will deliver a very differentiated whole grain bread, adding a unique flavor profile that is sweet and malty as well as a softer texture,” said Jessica Wellnitz, product line manager, whole grain nutrition for Bay State Milling, Quincy, Mass. “Utilizing alternative sprouted grains can complement any product, with generally sweeter flavors and softer textures than their un-sprouted counterparts.”

The specific benefits of sprouted grains may not be consistent due to such factors as varietal characteristics, viability, the process used to germinate and how well the process is controlled, she said.

“We are very focused on researching and optimizing both our raw ingredient supply chain and our process to maximize the benefits of sprouted grains,” Ms. Wellnitz said.

In an optimized sprouted ingredient, enzymes are activated, an act that makes the grain more easily digested and increases nutrients to the highest available concentration while making them bioavailable, she said.

Growers have bred popcorn specifically for its popping capacity. That is generally not the case for sorghum growers, but Nicholas A. Pugh is an exception. The researcher in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, planted 130 different varieties of sorghum and also investigated what environments are best for growing sorghum that pops. Mr. Pugh and his research team analyzed the characteristics of each of the different varieties and measured the hardness of the kernels. They heated the kernels for 2 minutes, 15 seconds.

“The results essentially showed that the environment that sorghum is grown in is perhaps one of the largest factors in determining how it will pop,” Mr. Pugh said.

Sorghum grown in Halfway, Texas, popped the best. Mr. Pugh said he thinks the reason may be the low average humidity there, which could mean not as much mold on the grain. The sorghum variety that popped the best was RIL #65, also known as “Sorg Pop.”