Friday, February 4, 2011

Sugar Cane Sticks

Thursday is my grocery shopping day.  Since Mike has the day off, together we meander down to Stockton and make our way to Trader Joe's, Artesian Natural Foods and Raley's, stocking up the ice chests, and loading up the trunk to feed our hungry teenage daughters.

The produce section at the Stockton Raley's is always a delight for me and I take great pride in knowing the names of all the various fruits and vegetables.  Mike enjoys asking me, "What's this?"  And I enjoy answering!

What's this?  Turnips
What's this?  Bitter melon. 
What's this?  Lemongrass. 
What's this?  Rutabaga. 
What's this?  Sugar cane.  Sugar Cane??!!

Sugar Cane Sticks from Raley's

Yep there it was, little packages of sugar cane tucked away on a shelf not far from the peppers.  I HAD to buy them, I mean seriously!  What a novelty!  But why buy sugar when I've made it publicly known that I am now living in a sugar-free zone?

Well, it goes back to a book I read several years ago.  Sweetness and Power:  The Place of Sugar in Modern History by Sidney W. Mintz.  Such a fascinating book which discusses the origins of sugar and how it changed the history of captialism, altered work patterns, eating habits and influenced our modern diet.

The one thing I clearly remember is the discussion of how slaves on the sugar plantations would chew sticks of unprocessed sugar cane yet never developed the diseases or dental caries that Americans and Europeans so easily developed and still do to this day. 

Why?  Well according to Mintz, sticks of unprocessed sugar cane would be likened to a whole food.  Just like processing an apple into apple juice and only drinking the juice but never eating the apple can lead to weight gain and contribute to poor health, so to processing a sugar cane and only eating the sugar, but not the cane, also leads to poor health.

Unprocessed Sugar Cane Sticks

So in my curiosity, I just had to buy the sticks!  And I know your curious, what do they taste like?  Well they are a little juicy, a little sweet and have a slight maple flavor.  I only chewed a quarter of a stick and have been watching for any reaction.  So far so good.

Now the last thing I want to do is get back into a sweet binge, but they were too synchronistic to pass up and the scientist in me loves a good experiment!

Have you tried sugar cane sticks?  What do you think of putting sugar cane sticks into the category of a whole food?  Do you think unprocessed cane could actually not be detrimental to one's health?


  1. this is fabulous Kristi! whole foods have so much that processed food don't, not to mention all the additives in processed food! yay you for venturing out and trying them! you're so inspiring.

  2. Thanks Tracy! Whole foods vs. processed foods. Could mean life or death really.

  3. My second grade teacher gave us sugar cane sticks once. I have a vivid memory of chewing it as I walked home from school that day. I remember it tasting really good. I've always wanted to try one again but have never seen them anywhere. How cool that you found them. I think it makes perfect sense that the cane would be considered a whole food since it is in it's unprocessed form. Whenever I see sugar cane as an ingredient I feel like it is better than regular sugar.

  4. Wow Melissa, what a great childhood memory!

  5. When I was growing up in LA we'd go to Olivera St. which is the Mexican Market on field trips. Sugar cane sticks were something which was looked upon with great joy and mouths would be watering.
    Thanks for bringing back this memory. tcGb

  6. Your welcome! The memories we have are precious, aren't they?