Guinea Grass Panic Attack

by Green Deane

in Edible Raw, Grain/Nuts/Seeds, Plants

Panic grass starts out tightly bundles then relaxes outward. Photo by Green Deane

Panic grass starts out tightly bundles then relaxes outward. Photo by Green Deane

Panicum maximum and then some

I eat grass. Actually we all do — rice, wheat, oats, barley  — but my local trail nibble is Guinea Grass, a relative to millet.  I’d like to tell you I collect enough to bake a loaf of bread, but I don’t. It’s an extremely common small-seeded grass here in Central Florida, unlike say Barn Yard Grass, and offers itself as a supplement to ones diet. On the trail I strip a stalk and just chow it down raw  (making sure it is not purple or red or black or brown with fuzzy ergot.) Or, I gather a few cups and parch the seeds till lightly green/brown and then snack on them. No, I don’t winnow them. It has a slightly burnt peanut flavor, quite nice actually.

The small seeds often have red flower tufts. Photo by Green Deane

The small seeds often have red flower tufts. Photo by Green Deane

Relatives of Panicum maximum provide a lot of food around the world. You will find grasses among the most difficult foragables to sort out. There are few quality references and grasses are frustratingly alike. Fortunately, there are just a few poisonous grasses but one you do have to look out for in North America is Johnson Grass, Sorghum halepense. Its leaves are toxic to humans. The Andropogons are iffy, too. Panicum maximum PAN-ih-kum MAK-see-mum) means “big bread.” Millet is not an important grain source in the United States but it very common in the rest of the world. I suspect the seeds of most Panicums are edible.

This just in: This plant’s new name is Megathyrsus maximum… which means “Big Flower Stem.” I hope that nomenclature update makes things much, much clearer.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION: Panicum maximum  is a perennial with a short, creeping rhizome, height to seven feet. Leaf sheaths at the bases of the stems are covered in fine hairs. Blades are up to 1.5 inches wide, tapering to a long fine point. Inflorescence is a large multi-branched, open panicle with loose, flexible branches. The lower branches in a whorl. Spikelets are green to light purple. Usually in large stands.

TIME OF YEAR: Flowers from November to July, seeds in fall.

ENVIRONMENT: Prefers fertile soil, adapted to a wide variety of conditions. Grows well in shade, damp area, under trees, seen along rivers and open woodland.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: I eat them as a trail side nibble raw off the stalk, or parch them and eat without winnowing. Experiment.


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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

slam farm September 14, 2016 at 10:10

Director Esquire
We are working on the import of seeds in Riyadh.ksa
We want to import PANICUM MAXIMUM

How is the piece and the price

Thank you


William July 4, 2015 at 09:12

You mentioned that there were poisonous grasses that look like this, but how can you tell the difference?


Green Deane July 5, 2015 at 07:55



Abu Miftah March 19, 2014 at 06:47

Hey there.

I live in Saudi Arabia and am looking for some Panicum Maximum seeds. It’s supposed to be a good forage crop and can handle drought pretty well. Do you know anybody that sells it in Central Florida?

I’ve only found sources in Brazil and Australia and they want to sell by the ton. I just want a little to experiment with.

Thanks and take care,
Abu Miftah


Green Deane March 19, 2014 at 07:27

It’s extremely common here in Florida. Someone who does sell seeds is Andy Firk. You can find him on facebook.


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