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SUGARCANE / Saccharum officinarum
Sugarcane (Saccharum) is a genus of 6 to 37 species (depending on taxonomic interpretation) of tall perennial grasses (family Poaceae, tribe Andropogoneae), native to warm temperate to tropical regions of the Old World. They have stout, jointed, fibrous stalks that are rich in sugar and measure 2 to 6 meters tall. All of the sugar cane species interbreed, and the major commercial cultivars are complex hybrids.

HISTORY
Sugarcane was originally from tropical South Asia and Southeast Asia. Different species likely originated in different locations with S. barberi originating in India and S. edule and S. officinarum coming from New Guinea. The thick stalk stores energy as sucrose in the sap. From this juice, sugar is extracted by evaporating the water. Crystallized sugar was reported 5000 years ago in India. Around the eighth century A.D., Arabs introduced sugar to the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, Egypt, North Africa, and Spain. By the tenth century, sources state, there was no village in Mesopotamia that didn't grow sugar cane. It was among the early crops brought to the Americas by Spaniards. Brazil is currently the biggest sugar cane producing country.  A boiling house was used in the 17th through 19th centuries to make sugarcane juice into raw sugar. These houses were add-ons to the sugar plantations in the western colonies. This process was often conducted by the African slaves, under very poor conditions. The boiling house was made of cut stone. The furnaces were rectangular boxes of brick or stone with openings near to one side, and at the bottom to stoke the fire and pull out the ashes. At the top of each furnace were up to seven copper kettles or boilers, each one smaller than the previous one and hotter. The cane juice was placed in the first copper kettle which was the largest. The juice was then heated and a little lime added to remove impurities. The juice was then skimmed then channeled to the other copper kettles. The last kettle, which was called the 'teache' was where the cane juice became syrup. It was then put into cooling troughs where the sugar crystals hardened around a sticky core of molasses. The raw sugar was then shoveled from the cooling trough into hogsheads (wooden barrels) where they were put in the curing house. Sugarcane was, and still is, extensively grown in the Caribbean, where it was first brought by Christopher Columbus during his second voyage to The Americas, initially to the island of Hispaniola (modern day Haiti and the Dominican Republic) . In colonial times, sugar was a major product of the triangular trade of New World raw materials, European manufactures, and African slaves. France found its sugarcane islands so valuable it effectively traded its portion of Canada, famously dubbed "a few acres of snow," to Britain for their return of Guadeloupe, Martinique and St. Lucia at the end of the Seven Years' War. The Dutch similarly kept Suriname, a sugar colony in South America, instead of seeking the return of the New Netherlands (New Amsterdam). Cuban sugarcane produced sugar that received price supports from and a guaranteed market in the USSR; the dissolution of that country forced the closure of most of Cuba's sugar industry. Sugarcane remains an important part of the economy of Belize, Barbados, Haiti along with the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, and other islands. The sugarcane industry is a major export for the Caribbean, but it is expected to collapse with the removal of European preferences by 2009.
Sugarcane production greatly influenced many tropical Pacific islands, including Okinawa and most particularly Hawaii and Fiji. In these islands, sugar cane came to dominate the economic and political landscape after the arrival of powerful European and American agricultural business, which promoted immigration from various Asian countries for workers to tend and harvest the crop. Sugar-industry policies eventually established the ethnic makeup of the island populations that now exist, profoundly affecting modern politics and society in the islands.
Brazil is a major grower of sugarcane, which is used to produce sugar and provide the ethanol used in making gasoline-ethanol blends (gasohol) for transportation fuel. In India, sugarcane is sold as jaggery and also refined into sugar, primarily for consumption in tea and sweets, and for the production of alcoholic beverages.

USES
Cane sugar, cane syrup, molasses, wax, and rum are products of sugarcane. Molasses is used as a sweetener, in industrial alcohol, for explosives, synthetic rubber, and in combustion engines. Fresh cane stems are often chewed, especially by poorer people. Sugar is used as a preservative for fruits and meats; cane is also made into a liqueur. The young unexpanded inflorescence of 'tebu telur' is eaten raw, steamed or toasted, and prepared in various ways. Refuse cane (bagasse) is used in the manufacture of paper, cardboard, and fuel. The reeds are made into pens, mats, screens, and thatch. Sugar is a common adjunct to unpleasant medicines. Some races are considered magical and are used ceremoniously. The saw edge of the sugar cane leaf is used to scar the skin, in preparation of tatooing. A mixture of bagasse and molasses (Molascuit) is used as cattle feed. The ground and dried cane (after juice has been expressed) makes an excellent mulch and can be baled and shipped economically, because of its light weight.



SUGARCANE AS FOOD
In most countries where sugarcane is cultivated, there are several foods and popular dishes derived from it, such as:
• Direct consumption of raw sugarcane cylinders or cubes, which are chewed to extract the juice, and the bagasse is spat out
• Freshly extracted juice (garapa, guarab, guarapa, guarapo, papel√≥n, 'aseer asab, Ganna sharbat, mosto or caldo de cana) by hand or electrically operated small mills, with a touch of lemon and ice, makes a popular drink.
• Molasses, used as a sweetener and as a syrup accompanying other foods, such as cheese or cookies
• Rapadura, a candy made of flavored solid brown sugar in Brazil, which can be consumed in small hard blocks, or in pulverized form (flour), as an add-on to other desserts.
• Sugarcane is also used in rum production, especially in the Caribbean.
• Cane sugar syrup was the traditional sweetener in soft drinks for many years, but has been largely supplanted (in the US at least) by high-fructose corn syrup, which is less expensive, but is considered by some to not taste quite like the sugar it replaces.
• Hard rock candy is a confection that is enjoyed by people around the world.




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