Sugarcane – What is it?
Sugarcane is a tall, tropical, perennial grass that grows up to five metres high. The stems, the main bulk of the plant, are the cane stalks that are harvested and processed to make cane sugar and other products.
Sugarcane stalks, though woody, release a deliciously sweet, pale, yellowy-green juice.
Where to find it
At wet markets. To see it growing, visit the leisure farms at Fanling in the New Territories. It is also available canned in some countries where you can’t buy it fresh.
- The original candy, raw sugarcane stalks are chewed on as a sweet snack in many developing countries.
- Throughout Southeast Asia and India, the juice is extracted by running the cane through small mills.
- To make sweeteners: sugar, syrup, (in the US, the cheaper alternative, high fructose corn syrup, is now used instead), molasses and jaggery.
- To make the alcoholic spirit cachaça in Brazil, which is the star ingredient in the national cocktail caipirinha.
- To make rum (often from molasses) in the Caribbean.
- The ethanol made from sugarcane is used both for transportation and as a green alternative to petroleum in the making of plastic.
- The pulp and stalks are used for woven furniture, cardboard and paper products.
- Sugarcane is a source of iron, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.
- Nutrient-dense blackstrap molasses, a by-product, treats anaemia by promoting red blood cell production.
- Sugarcane’s antioxidants can prevent and repair damage by free radicals, and may also fight infection and disease.
- Raw sugarcane’s low glycaemic index keeps blood sugar levels more stable than processed sugar would do, making it a better choice for diabetics.
See more in our wine & dine section