Tubo or Sugar Cane is where we get the sugar granules we use everyday. In the Philippines, there are two types of sugar cane, the green one and the red one. The green ones are the one being process to become refined sugar or raw sugar. The red ones are for general consumption. That’s why I include sugar cane in fruits. We actually eat it fresh like a regular fruit. We cut it in sections and remove the hard skin and cut in into bite size pieces and it’s ready to eat. We actually don’t eat the whole thing, we just suck the juices then discard the fibrous canes. Here in Hawaii, there are stores that sells fresh sugar cane juice. They have a mill that extracts the juices from the sugar cane stalks.
Sugar cane belongs to the grass family. Its jointed and fibrous stalks grow from 6 ft. up to 19 ft. tall. The stout stems are filled with sugar and the main produce of this plant. The processing of sugar cane is labor intensive and countries who produce sugar had to import workers from all over to look for cheap labor. In Hawaii alone, people from Japan, China, Philippines and other countries comprise the workforce that made Hawaii as we know it today, except sugar plantation is not the main product anymore, tourism is.
Planting sugar from stem cutting is the modern method of propagation. It grows from about 6 to 7 months with proper irrigation system.
Other products derived from sugar cane are molasses, baggasse (which is primarily used for fuel) ethanol, rum and penuche, we call it “panutsa”, which is raw sugar molded in coconut shells and used for making all kinds of desserts and candies. I especially like the candies made of coconut milk and “panutsa”.
I remember when I was growing up, I had a chance to visit a sugar plantation in San Agustin and I was fortunate enough to eat fresh molasses which they put inside the containers made of bamboo. It was really surprisingly sweet and delicious. I will never forget that experience. There’s nothing like it.
It also reminded me of the sugar mill in Pampanga where every time we travel to Manila, we pass by it and the smell of the fermenting “bagasse” is wafting in the air. It is not really a good thing to smell. I also remember a place in remote Botolan, Zambales, where they have a sugar mill they named “Caribe”. A friend of mine worked there and she tells me fun stories about the mill.