Tubo or sugar cane is considered a tall grass with stout, fibrous stalks that are rich in sugar. It grows up to six meters tall. The trunks are jointed like bamboo except it is not hollow. There are two types of sugar cane or “tubo” that I remember when I was growing up. One is green skinned and the other one is maroon colored. The green type is the one used for producing the sugar while the red one is for consumption of the locals who like to munch on sweets. The stalk of the sugar cane is peeled first, then cut in cylinders, removing the joints, (it is quite tough to munch on) and divide into sticks and then you can chew it and spit out the remaining fiber called the “bagasse.” You can also drink the juice of the sugar cane by using either a hand mill or an electronically operated one. I have seen a hand mill one here in Hawaii at Chinatown where the lady sells all kinds of tropical fruits and drinks just like the fresh juice of sugar cane.

Sugar cane is known to originate from tropical Southeast Asia and spread to the Americas by the Spaniards and now the number one producer of sugar cane is Brazil. Ethanol is a by-product of sugar cane production and it became one of the most important addition for our fuel consumption. Other products from sugar cane besides refined table sugar and powdered sugar used for confections, are brown sugar or turbinado, molasses, “panutsa” or penuche’ in French, (we use panutsa for most of our rice desserts and/or coconut jams.)

Sugar cane is propagated from cuttings. The cuttings need to have at least one bud in order to grow a stalk called a “ratoon”. One cutting can produce three or more stalks and can be harvested in six to eight months. In a small garden like I have, you can plant some stalks in the corner and just let it grow. All it needs is full sun and regular watering.