Broomcorn

16BC1
July18, 2016 - Just six 200' rows this year.  Trying to get back in the game, with Mr. Donnie's help.
16BC2
July 18, 2016 - Looking good.  This is why I like growing my own broomcorn.  The brush tends to be shorter than commercial corn.  It's great for making smaller brooms like hearth brooms.  The  commercial stuff is good for big sweepers & the like.  
16BC3
July 18, 2016 - The heads, though, seem to be maturing a little fast considering that the plants aren't even waist-high.  Red flag?
broomcorn july 27 2016
July 27, 2016 - Still looking good.  But, within two weeks this was a near-total crop failure.  The seeds developed so fast thanks to the drought-induced desperation, but the peduncles & knurl were still soft as butter---useless for brooms.  Once the seeds matured, the brush was ruined.  It's so heartbreaking I ain't even gonna post a pic.

The fiber traditionally used to make brooms in many parts of the world comes from a plant commonly known as “broomcorn.”  These brooms are commonly called “corn brooms.”   Broomcorn, despite its name, is not related to what we call “corn,” which is more properly known as “maize.”  (Except in that they are both grasses…)  In old England, all grains were called “corn,” which led to the common names we currently use for both maize and broomcorn. Broomcorn is in fact a variety of Sorghum, sorghum vulgare, a plant that sends its seeds straight up from the stalk on fibers known as panicles. Unlike the short compact heads and fibers of the commonly known “grain sorghum,” broomcorn’s seeds shoot up two feet or more above the stalk of the 6-9’ tall plant on long, tough, durable fibers which just happen to be fantastic for sweeping.

Broomcorn is a rather tough, forgiving plant, so it is easy to grow even in hot, dry climates. It is, however, exceedingly labor-intensive to harvest and requires a dry harvest season to avoid irregular formation.  For that reason, much of the broomcorn grown in North America today is grown in northern Mexico around the city of Torreon, although it was once a large cash crop in Midwestern states like Oklahoma and Illinois.  The Broom Brothers harvest their crop by walking through the field and snatching the top of the plant, including the peduncle (top end of the stem), panicles (fibers) and seeds away from the stem.  They then use a mechanical threshing device consisting of a rotating drum with embedded nails to strip off the seeds.  The resulting green brush is then placed in bulk racks and moved to a humidity-controlled room for several weeks for drying. Ralph and Dan harvest several hundred pounds of broomcorn each year, broomcorn which can be found on many of the brooms in inventory.  Broomcorn needs over and above homegrown supplies are met by one of the few remaining broomcorn distributors in the U.S., Caddy Supply.

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