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Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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I can remember easily the first time I stood deep in a field of sugarcane in full bloom, a field already marked for harvesting. It was the spring of 1948, and I had just begun fieldwork in Puerto Rico. The field lay in a rural barrio on the south coast of the island, only about a hundred yards inland from the beach. The well-irrigated soil in which the cane was growing was clayey, black in color. It looked cool under a blinding sun, but the air in the field was intensely hot.

The cane was the kind called gran cultura (literally, “big growth”), a term that means only that it was left to grow for 15 months or even more before being cut. Topped by the pale, wheat-like, lavender sugarcane blossoms they call guajana, the cane was thicker than a man’s wrist. Standing more than 12 feet tall, these plants are bred to be one of the most substantial and important economic grasses in the world. They were full to bursting of their intensely sweet green sap, guarapo, which is drunk by the cupful nearly everywhere that cane is grown.