Agricultural Research Service scientists are analysing kernels of food-grade sorghum in the hopes of creating new grain-based foods.
Sorghum lacks gluten - certain proteins present in wheat and two closely related cereals, rye and barley - and is therefore considered safe for the millions of people with coeliac disease, also known as gluten intolerance.
But these gluten proteins are also what give dough made from wheat flour its desired visco-elasticity. By studying the function of sorghum proteins, the scientists are hoping to find cultivars that will lead to a good-tasting, finely-textured sorghum bread.
The ARS is working with collaborators from Ireland and Germany to see which food-grade varieties produce a winning bread.
Some varieties of sorghum also contain a surprising new source of cancer-fighting compounds. Such whole-grain varieties contain high levels of phenols and tannins, two plant compounds with a knack for mopping up free radicals that can wreak havoc on cell membranes and other delicate machinery within the human body.
Sorghum brans are also high in dietary fibre.