On the morning Xpress met with Harrell at Green Sage Café Westgate, he opted to pour a thinner version of his own sorghum syrup over a plate of butter-slathered pancakes and urged me to take a bite. Sure enough, Appalachia’s slightly deeper and tangier answer to maple syrup tasted right at home atop the stack of golden flapjacks.
Harrell’s beaming smile probably reflected a pride in his product, but also a pride in his heritage. Interestingly, Harrell started growing sorghum on his family farm eight years ago to “stay relevant.” But his farm, which was established in 1776, had been used to grow sorghum up until the the mid-1950s. “Until 1950, it was the predominant sweetener in the nation,” he explains. “After the war, white sugar became cheap to make, and people quit making the sorghum syrup.”