Sugar Cane

rj_hythloday(8A VA)May 1, 2009

I'm very interested in growing sugar cane and making my own raw sugar and brown sugar. Is any body doing this? I really don't like baking w/ refined white sugar but the turbnado is so expensive. I used to get ''Yellow D'' brown sugar for fairly cheap at a health food store. I can't even find it any more.

I'm also interested in growing stevia and sugar beets, but am most interested in sugar cane.

Has any one done this? Or seen any info on it? Web searches don't give me any thing I'm looking for.

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That's 'cuz it's tropical.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2009 at 2:14AM
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rj_hythloday(8A VA)

Ok, I realize that it's grown in the FL keys also Hawaii. My question is more about refining/making sugar for home baking. I know that sugar beets and stevia are better adapted to more areas than regular cane.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 10:37AM
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Sugar is HEAVILY processed, thru much back-breaking labor. There's a reason that slaves were used most heavily in tobacco, cotton, and sugar cane production--these are horrible jobs (pre-industrially) that you couldn't even get enough of the poorest people to do to fulfill the enormous labor demand.

In short: People don't home-farm sugar because they don't hate themselves that much. :-)

Alternative: Bees and maple. Other maples other than sugar maples can be tapped, likely as far south as 8a (I know as far as 7b...). Bees are pretty simple for the casual homesteader, too.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 2:15AM
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rj_hythloday(8A VA)

I've been looking into Top Bar Hives, I don't have a big enough yard at the moment, but will have a TBH when I can, chickens too!

The main problem is honey doesn't convert for recipes to easily, I want unprocessed unrefined sugars for baking. I buy raw or turbinado but it's pricey, I can't even find unprocessed brown sugar in this part of the country.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 8:34AM
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I don't understand? Someone asked how to make sugar cane into sugar and all they get is why they don't need to be doing it. They didn't ask should they be processing cane sugar but how.
I was driving across Louisiana (zone 8 same as poster) a few years back. I stopped at a roadside produce stand. They had fresh squeezed cane juice and cane syrup for sale. They had a mule driven cane mill behind the stand and you could watch them mill the cane. The cane field was behind the cane mill. The owner said his boys cut the cane fresh each day. So I know you can grow sugar cane in zone 8 and you don't have to have slaves to cultivate it. Now how to turn it into sugar I don't know for sure. You cook down cane juice to make cane syrup and I would *guess* you would keep cooking it down to get unrefined cane sugar?

    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 10:02PM
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rj_hythloday(8A VA)

USMC, I think you're close. I'm pretty sure that turbinado crystals come from dehydrated cane juice. Maybe the brown is the same and is just stopped earlier to get the moisture. I wonder if any one who knows is on this forum?

I wonder if I could just find some one growing it nearby, I'm driving to FL next month, maybe I could buy some in bulk and bring it back.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 11:35AM
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islandmanmitch(z 8/9 FL)

When I was a kid my Grandfather grew sugarcane but I don't remember a lot about it. What I remember he would plow furrows and lay full lengths of cane in the bottom and cover it. He had an old truck frame with a cane crusher mounted to it. He would start the trucks engine and feed the cane into a chute that had steel rollers that crushed the cane and juice would come out of the bottom. He would cook the juice in a big kettle to make syrup. He homemade cane sugar also that was lighter brown not like the darker brown sugar you buy. I never seen him make it so I don't know how he did it. Sugar cane is grown in North Florida and South Alabama also. Sorry I can't be of anymore help.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 6:50PM
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Since I'm not an idiot, I never said that sugar cane can't be processed without slaves. I implied that no sane person would CHOOSE to process sugar cane BY HAND unless that person had a level of desperation not likely to be found in a first-world country. Got a few extra mules and a whole lotta free energy (like a big pile of brush to burn)? Knock yourself out.

Below is a link with info about how sugar cane is processed. For each stage, there is a low-tech tool that was used historically. You just MIGHT be able to find some rotting away in some Florida barn. You can try agricultural antique stores. You can also try making your own.

In some (really miserable) parts of the world, sugar cane IS still processed partly by hand--the milling, for example, is done with something like a hand-crank mangle. (I've seen videos. I'd take hand processing of rubber over it any day.)

So what you could do is grow the cane (if it grows in your area and you supply it with enough water), harvest it by hand, chop up the canes, run them through a mangle from Lehman's, strain it in a hand strainer, figure out a supplier for food-grade clarification materials and clarify it, boil is down until it's super-saturated (days????) (repeating last two steps as needed...), throw a handful of sugar into it, and BAM! There you go. Raw sugar, with all molasses included.

Here is a link that might be useful: Have fun!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 2:22AM
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FWIW, an olive press ( might be even better than a wringer.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 4:26AM
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rj_hythloday(8A VA)

reyesuela, thanks for the info. It does sound like a lot more work than I'd be willing to put into it. I guess there's a reason turbinado demands a premium price. I'm guessing refined sugar is done w/ a chemical process or in a huge factory setting. I'm going to post on the FL garden forum and see if I can find a source to just buy some when I'm down there next month.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 10:50AM
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It's mechanical separation, but I'm not sure what you could fake a centrifuge with.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 12:11AM
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Sorghum cane will grow further north and gives a sweet sap. It's pressed out with a roller mill and cooked down.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 6:16AM
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Pooh Bear

"It's mechanical separation, but I'm not sure what you could fake a centrifuge with."

How about a honey spinner. Could it be converted to a
centrifuge to seperate the molasses from the sugar?

Pooh Bear

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 11:04PM
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In south Louisiana we are surrounded by sugar cane, two sides of our property are next to sugar cane fields. I grow an old variety of chewing cane on my property, it's softer than the varieties grown commercially today. When I was young we pealed our cane, crushed it with a hand vice and used the juice to flavor our drinks. It's very easy to grow and not much work to juice it that way, we didn't have the money to buy sugar. I never tried to make dry sugar but would love to know if anyone has had success with it.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2010 at 9:41PM
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I live in Humboldt County, CA. I have had sugar cane growing here for some time. Sure it won't ever grow as well as it will in tropical climates, but that's not the point. Many "Tropical" plants WILL grow in other environments. They are just not as profitable and require more work and love to keep them alive. I even have a few cacao trees growing in a window/ skylight area of the house. People also told me my bananas would freeze and die up here. Funny, they are outside on the balcony right now. Hail and frost did all but kill them. I say plant it and see what happens. What's the worst that could happen?

    Bookmark   December 26, 2010 at 6:07PM
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