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What is Raw Sugar Cane?

Raw sugar from sugar cane.
Stalks of sugar cane.
Table sugar is made from sugar cane.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2014
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Raw sugar cane refers to the plant used to produce many varieties of table sugar and other sweeteners like molasses and raw sugar. It is a plant of the genus Saccharum, and there are several species grown throughout the world, mostly in warm climates. It’s thought that sugar cane originally came from places like India, and processes for creating sugar from the plant date back at least five millennia. Growth of raw sugar cane is often associated with development of the New World too, since sugar cane growth was widely developed in certain tropical regions as Europeans actively colonized North and South America.

Part of the reason that sugar cane makes such an excellent plant for sugar creation is because it is very good at converting carbon dioxide to sugars using sunlight as a power source (photosynthesis). This makes the plant extremely sweet with excess sugar that can be extracted via a variety of methods, and converted to other sugar forms like sucrose. This also means that eating raw sugar cane, or at least gnawing on it, can be a real treat.

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It isn’t always possible to find raw sugar cane, but when it is, it’s well worth trying. Sugar cane is harvested in stalks that may be many feet tall, sometimes nearly 20 feet (6.1 meters) in height. They usually won’t be sold as raw sugar cane for consumption in these large stalks, and those who harvest the cane may cut them into pieces that are about half a foot (.15 m) long.

After purchasing the cane, people need merely wash it, dry it, and begin chewing and sucking on it. Due to its tough nature, raw sugar cane isn’t really meant to be chewed and swallowed. Instead, it is simply chewed or sucked on so the sweet juices that are in it are released. Any pieces that break off in the mouth should be discreetly discarded, since the highly fibrous nature of the cane makes it hard to digest and potentially a choking hazard.

The biggest difficulty with raw sugar cane is finding a place that sells it. It may be very hard to get in areas where sugar cane isn’t grown. In places where sugar cane is grown regularly, it may be available at the local grocery store. Occasionally, specialty foods stores will carry it and ship it in from other areas. The worth of the crop though, is primarily in it being able to produce sugar, and raw sugar cane is usually not a hugely profitable crop on its own, and is instead a specialty item.

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