Thirsty for something different, deliciously sweet and excellent for your health? How about some fresh sugarcane juice!
After Mohamed transplanted my little sugarcane babies from the roof to the land next to the fence, I thought they looked very nice there. They made a tall green wall of fringe that appealed to my inner landscape designer. Never underestimate the rich egyptian soil, though, because it can turn a few sugarcane babies into a jungle faster than weeds on steroids.
After cutting through the jungle with a machete, or as it is called here, a “sho’ruf,” Mohamed cut a few sugarcane stalks away from the fence and carried them back closer to the house.Then he stripped away all the leaves, and washed and rinsed the bare stalks clean from any dust or soil. Next he cut the long stalks into shorter sections, and collected them all in a bucket.
I really like fresh sugarcane juice. It’s quite sweet, and ordinarily I prefer my sweeteners artificial and calorie free, but I always make an exception for fresh sugarcane juice. It’s probably the National Drink of Egypt, and it’s definitely good for whatever’s ailing you. It’s high in Vitamin C, to boost your immune system, especially if you have a cold. It has a low glycemic index, so sugarcane juice won’t make you sleepy by blasting you with insulin. It is rich in carbohydrates, so it will give you energy and refresh you, but it is digested slowly, as it has no simple sugars.
Sugarcane juice is a vegan source of protein, too, and studies have shown it to be useful against prostate and breast cancer cells, possibly due to the alkalinity of the juice. Juice high in alkalinity is excellent for treatment of kidney, bladder, prostate, and urinary tract troubles, so sugarcane juice is not only going to hydrate you quickly in hot weather, it’s going to cleanse your whole system gently at the same time. And don’t forget that sugarcane grows into a jungle quickly, too, and it never needs spraying for pests, so it’s a highly sustainable, organically grown crop, producing a natural drink far better for our health than carbonated soda pop. I guess you can tell I really like sugarcane juice!
So this homely looking bucket of sticks probably looks different to you, now, than it did at first glance, right? Let’s carry it to the juicer and fire her up!
It was being sold by a man in Alexandria, and I really wanted to go with my husband. It was my birthday, afterall, and a nice lunch on the Alexandrian Corniche overlooking the Mediterranean Sea seemed like it had my name written all over it. But it was not to be. The memory of a previous ‘great idea’ similar to this stopped my whining immediately. We had an awesome lunch in Cairo once, but I had to sit squished and petrified against the rickety door of a truck cab all the way back home after we bought all the ceramic tile we needed for our new house on the second floor.
Two big men are all that’s supposed to fit in the cab of a commercial truck, but silly me, I had to have a great lunch in Cairo, so I got squished like a sardine in a leaky can careening in egyptian traffic for my dessert. The driver took a wrong turn, to make matters far worse, zig zagging us through “Zagazig” believe it or not, and I never accompanied my husband again on a buying expedition to anywhere! I was not about to repeat that lesson again, just because it was my birthday – much better to stay home, crank up the smooth jazz, and enjoy the vacation!
When Mohamed arrived home, it was very late, but we unwrapped the machine right away. We had never seen anything like it. It’s much smaller than what they use in the juice stands all over Egypt, but it’s nice and shiny and I was inclined to like it right away. Any appliance covered in stainless steel looks awesome to me. When you turn it on it hums as two drums turn inside, but not loudly. A vaccuum cleaner is far more offensively loud than a sugarcane juicer. I definitely decided I liked it much better than the vaccuum cleaner!
I love the ingenuity of the Chinese designer of this sugarcane juicer machine. It has wheels to make it roll around, which is convenient because it’s surprisingly heavy. But the brilliant part is the way the wheels only allow the machine to move sideways.
You don’t understand the importance of this until you insert a sugarcane into the mouth of the machine and push the stalk tip into the “Valley of Death by Crushing Pressure” between the two rolling drums. It would never go in, if the wheels allowed the machine to move back or forth, but as it was, the machine stayed put firmly and grabbed the sugarcane stalk, pulling it into it’s incredibly strong drums. Children don’t need to play with this machine! Yikes!The sugarcane stalk is pulled by the drums, through the “Valley of Death by Crushing Pressure,” and every drop of DNA is sqeezed from it’s molecules before it comes out, flattened as a piece of box carton, from the back of the machine. I don’t know what those two drums are made of, but I’m sure it’s industrial strength!
If you’ve ever been fishing with a bamboo fishing pole, you know something about the strength of bamboo. Certainly the fishermen and women from ancient ages ago chose their poles from bamboo for a reason. It’s incredibly difficult to break a piece of bamboo! Sugarcane is very similar to bamboo, with one important difference. Whereas bamboo canes are hollow, sugarcane is filled with a network of cellulose holding sugary nectar in a way similar to the bees’ hive holding honey in each cell of the comb. It’s stonger than bamboo, but it’s never been a good idea to use a food source for something other than food, so probably sugarcane was saved for knawing on, and bamboo was used for fishing.Knawing on stalks of sugarcane probably works for folks with jaws as strong as a mule. But at some point in history, knawing probably became tedious, and the idea of eating chewed up leftovers from the donkey was probably abandoned at the first bite. After this, somebody got out the stainless steel and began manufacturing a sugarcane juicer machine for those of us who value our dental work, or don’t have a donkey. Alhamdulillah – Thank God! (lol Thank God I don’t have a donkey!)
A stainless steel box with a screen cover sits in a slot under the two drums, catching all the juice while preventing bits of cane from entering. On the front of the box is a well made brass valve allowing the juice to be poured from the box into a cup, or in our case, into a pitcher. Four or five sections, or probably two full size stalks produced about one and a half litre of juice.
Wow! Who would have guessed there was that much juice in a sugarcane! This is serious productivity improvement over knawing on it with our teeth – we could actually serve this every morning with our breakfast! It is really delicious used to sweeten herbal tea, too. It has a flavor you will immediately recognize as molasses, but it’s light like juice, not overpoweringly rich like syrup. Boil a handful of parsley, fenugreek and cilantro seeds in a pot of water, steep for a few minutes, then strain and sweeten with sugarcane juice – this is a delicious, healthy tonic you will probably love, especially if you have a cold or suffer from arthritis!
If you have any opportunity to try fresh sugarcane juice, please don’t pass it up!
P.S. If you’re seriously considering it, these sugarcane juicer machines are available for import from China.
And if you’d like to see an excellent slideshow of sugarcane juice photos from around the world, check this out:
Awesome slideshow of sugarcane juice photos from flickriver.com