Sorghum bicolor subsp. bicolor
Improvement status: Annual
Seeds per packet: ~50
Germination tested 12/2023: 90%
Life cycle: Annual
Kassaby' is one of the first sorghums we ever grew, but this is the first time we're offering it for sale here (we did sell a few packets of it back when we were still hand-labeling our packets to sell at a handful of events each year). It comes from the same town as our favorite sorghum — 'Coral' — and was likewise collected by the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture in the mid-1960s. It originates with the Shilluk people of the war-torn city of Malakal, South Sudan. 'Kassaby' (which, like 'Coral', is not a Shilluk name) is a great white-seeded grain sorghum, but also an excellent sweet sorghum for making syrup. The seeds can be popped like popcorn, boiled or steamed like rice or barley, ground into flour (for excellent cookies, pancakes, biscuits, etc.), brewed into beer, or cracked and cooked like polenta. Harvested when the grains are still green, they can be hand-threshed and cooked almost like a green vegetable (akin to sweet corn), producing a chewy, sweet, savory delight. This preparation is considered a delicacy in South Sudan. (In India, green sorghum is also a delicacy, called "ponk", and often combined with chickpea flour to make special fritters.)
'Kassaby' is drought resistant and grows well in marginal soil. It can be prone to lodging (falling over), but when growin in a large stand the plants will support each other. Like other sorghums, even plants that fall over will often still ripen, sometimes making anchoring roots from nodes a few feet up the plant, allowing the plant to bend itself back upright.
While we haven't grown out 'Kassaby' for years — not because we don't love it, but because two other white sorghums from countries besides South Sudan earned places in our rotation, and we strive to keep our listings as diverse as possible — we have given seeds away to quite a few people. Among these were Sarah Kleeger and Andrew Still of Adaptive Seeds, and it performed so well for them that they added it to their catalogue! It can be hard for grain sorghums to reach full maturity in their climate (the town of Sweet Home, Oregon), but 'Kassaby' has become a pretty reliable performer in the Pacific Northwest, maturing in about 110 days (it was about 100 days for us the last time we grew it). This seed was produced by Sarah and Andrew and the Adaptive team. We're very pleased to make it available to you all.
We look forward to a time when we can return seeds of this sorghum, and the other sorghums we maintain from Malakal ('Coral,' 'Nerum Boer,' and 'Nebur Der'), to Shilluk people able to once again grow crops in their ancestral homelands. As of this writing, the majority of the Shilluk people are currently living in refugee camps across the border in Sudan, victims of the vicious civil war that still rages in South Sudan, the world's youngest country.