Monday, January 11, 2010

Sugar cane is back

Something was new yesterday in Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market!

Something I had never seen there or anywhere in the world.
Sugar cane!

The juice store man first cut it into manageable pieces with a cleaver and then fed it into a special machine with his right hand. The dry, squeezed part came out on the left side.

Out came the juice for the curious smiling customers.
In not-perfect Hebrew the sign extolls the therapeutic wonders worked by the "sweet love" drink of lemon juice mixed with cane sugar juice.
Click to enlarge the photo if you can read Hebrew.
Photo by Amir Freundlich
When I worked at the excavations in Tiberias last October, we volunteers were given a guest lecture by Dr. Edna Stern titled "The sweet Sea of Galilee." Apparently El-Kabri in the Western Galilee and other sugar villages in the north were producing sugar in Medieval times.
The first book about sugar production in Akko, Tiberias, Kabul, etc. was written in the 10th century. Dr. Stern quoted a juicy part: something about that they "ate and danced naked."
Hmm, like, from a sugar high??
Stern headed a salvage dig at Horbat Manot. The photo above is the sugar mill there.
The Israel Antiquities Authority page about the site and about its planned conservation says this:

"The Crusaders first encountered sugar cane and the growing of it upon arrival to the shores of Lebanon in the 11th century. Within a few years they have come to realize the value of the sugar manufactured from the cane, the profit gained from its production and from exporting it to Europe. Apparently, the Crusaders were the first to develop the process of producing sugar crystals in cones and in molasses amphoriskoi that facilitated the transport and the marketing of the sugar cane products in Europe."
The cones mentioned are sugarloaves.
Wiki says "A sugarloaf was the traditional form in which refined sugar was produced and sold until the late 19th century when granulated and cube sugars were introduced."
"The sugar mill consists of remains of an aqueduct that conveyed water from Nahal Kziv; crushing mill sluices, press base for extracting the liquefied sugar and a large barrel-vaulted hall (8 x 35 m) containing furnaces for cooking and refining the sugar cane juice, remains of another hall to the north of it and a subterranean vault to the south of it," the report says about Horbat Manot.
Sounds the same as the processes shown in this 16th century engraving of sugar production in Europe.
Today there are but scarce remains of sugar cane in Israel and Jordan.
Once the water sources were more plentiful and supported the plant.
I heard from an old-timer who grew up in the 1930s near the sources of the Yarkon River how Arabs would pass with sugar cane-laden donkeys and he would get a few pieces to chew on for a sweet treat.
And all this started at the shuk as something sweet to share with you for That's My World Tuesday.


Yogi♪♪♪ said...

I forget just where now. But I have seen that sugar cane machine somewhere. Didn't try any though.

RuneE said...

This is an issue I ought to have known much more about, but I must have slept in class. I have not even seen a sugar cane!

Thank you for a most informing post.

PS Thank you for the comments - with yours, I have received 62 :-)

cieldequimper said...

Oh the history is fascinating and I would love to try it! I'm curious about what that sign says though! ;-)Did you try it and dance naked? ;-)

Jew Wishes said...

How interesting!!! I like the photos, too. And, the sugar cane, itself, reminds me a bit of bamboo.

*SparkleMirror* Kiln-Fired said...

Very interesting, Dina... never would've thought sugarcane was once big business there.

Linda said...

I've not chewed sugar cane in Israel, but I remember chewing it as a child. It was a wonderful treat.

VP said...

After reading your post I finally know why the mountain overlooking Rio is called Sugarloaf. It's shaped exactly like one of those pieces in the old print. I never realized before that once sugar was stored and sold in loaves... Great post!

Rob and Mandy said...

How very interesting! I'd completely forgotten about this. I remember vaguely one of the kibbutzin near Beit Shean growing some, and I'm quite certain about Ein Hamifratz, near Akko. I used to chew them as a kid, long ago, and I loved it. Memories of long past times.

Robin said...

How fun, I'd love to try a glass - my spine could use some strengthening too ;).

Dina said...

Yogi, really? In America?

Rune, haha, can't imagine you falling asleep in class. I did once, in my 8 a.m. German lit class, but I kept taking notes. The page was full of squiggley lines, no real words.
Well, I didn't know any of this in the post either until our Sweet Sea of Galilee lecture last November and some research today.

Your phantom ship in the fog photo is exquisite, deserving of 62 comments and more.

Ciel, LOL, no, I dared not try it, just in case!

Dina said...

Ciel, OK, for you I translate.
The sign says

Sweet love
Squeezed lemons and sugar cane
>The best for removing toxins from the body
>For strengthening the spine
>For the digestive system
>For ulcers
>For blood circulation
The best drink you've ever drunk in your entire life

Dina said...

Jew Wishes, nachon, it looks like colorful bamboo.

David, me too.
Europe only started getting it in 1700 when they had it produced in the tropics. Up until 1700 regular sugar was too expensive for the common people.

Linda, cool! In Texas?

VP, the only sugarloaf I heard of was the mountain. Then the archaeologist's lecture opened my eyes to those cones, that they are called sugarloaves. Thank God for teachers, in all kinds of places. :)
Oh, and I read today that the loaf could only be cut by sugar nippers.

Rob and Mandy, you chewed? Oi, now I am regretting not trying some.
Thanks for the tip about the kibbutzim. Now I'll have to try to find out more about the sugar cane situation today in Israel.

Dina said...

Robin, yeah, maybe it will make the spine as straight as a sugar cane. hehe
Thanks for your input about Yardenit. Lucky you were to live at the kibbutz for a time.

Rambling Round said...

Very interesting lesson on sugar cane!

Kay said...

This is so interesting! And here I thought they only grew in tropical areas. I grew up in the MIDDLE of sugar cane fields. As children we'd go out into the fields after they were burned and harvested and chew on the stalks. I've never tried sugar cane juice although I've seen them sold in other countries.

J Bar said...

That's interesting and educational.
Sydney - City and Suburbs

eileeninmd said...

Dina, Interesting post and photos on the sugar cane.

Chuck Pefley said...

Sounds like it might taste a bit like a sweet lemonade. Sounds delicious!

Vicki said...

Fascinating post, Dina.

Queensland grows a lot of sugar cane, though I've never actually seen it in its raw form.

Sugar for strengthening the spine? Hmmn...

Anonymous said...

I have seen those same machines here in Jeddah! Great post, Dina!

Ann said...

I've seen it in a few places - at markets in Queensland and I'm pretty sure I stopped at a sugar cane juice stand in Cairo. May also have seen them in Thailand.

Gallow said...

Did you try the juice? If so, how was it?

Erin said...

fascinating history of sugar cane in your world. enjoyed the photos and post much.
have a fab week.

Dimple said...

A very interesting thought, sugar cane in the 10th century. In some areas I a woefully uneducated!

Me and my puppies said...

My Tuesday trip around the world is so educational. So glad I stopped here.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I remember seeing raw cane sold at the downtown farmers market but not juiced. Cane is grown in Florida. I tried it but don't recall liking it.

Did you try it?

So admirable the amount of work you put into your posts. No wonder your so popular. Sugar loafs...interesting. Maybe the sugar dance was preceded by hemp consumption. Thinking out loud

Cloudia said...

Are there hula dancers in your country too?????


Turquoise Diaries said...

Very interesting. I have never seen one before. Did you taste the juice? Was it good?

Dina said...

Shalom readers! I'm glad to learn who knows sugar cane and from where.
Kay must take the prize however, having grown up in the midst of Hawaiian sugar cane fields!

No, I forgot to buy a glass of the juice. Too excited and busy taking pictures instead.
Maybe next time, if it is still there.

Cloudia, haha, no hula dancers. Only hora.

Willard said...

An extremely interesting post. I always associated sugar cane with Brazil, etc. and never thought about it being in your part of the world.

Tina Liel said...

Oh Dina you have always something interesting up your sleeve!!!Seems like you are quite good asking people for permission to photograph them. There I have a bit to learn after some hmmmmmm not so nice answers from people! Any tips?

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting post. I love sugar cane raw. And nobody grows it around here anymore. It seems like in the 1940s farmers took chances on more crops and there was a great diversity. Not now. Most farms are fallow as they collect taxpayer money "not" to plant crops.

Yes, ashes on snow was a nightmare and sometimes mom would tell me to run out and get a fresh dishpan full of snow, packed in good, so we could make some snow ice cream. Not much to it except the addition of vanilla flavoring. Anyway, then she would stuff the stove full of newspapers and set it on fire so that would catch the chimney on fire and burn out the soot. The new snow or the old snow outside would be covered with little black balls of soot.

Dina said...

Willard, shalom. Well, I still have to find out how much is still grown in Israel. I'll let y'all know.

Tina, sometimes I ask permission. But here it was a question of quickly getting the shots while the man was in action. I figured if he objected he would yell at me.
I know many workers on the street may be illegal and I never take their picture, well, unless it's from behind.
Normally I get permission to put strangers on the blog.

Abe, I love your stories of the past. Thanks for passing on the knowledge.

Reader Wil said...

In Indonesia and Australia I have seen sugar cane, and little trains transporting sugar cane.
This is all very interesting to read how cane is used and when we Europeans discovered it. I have learned something new again.Thank you. Dina!

Ann said...

If you go to malaysia or Singapore, they sell you juice like yours.

Most houses when I was growing up have a clump of sugar cane plant.

Jama said...

I love to drink sugarcane juice, it's quiet a common sight here to see the sugarcane and the machine .

ruma2008 said...

The atmosphere that seems to be really sweet is handed down to me.
And I feel the history.

From the Far East.

JM said...

I love sugar cane juice! I allways have some while visiting countries where it's available. The machine looks similar to others I've seen.

Eki said...

We have a lot of them here. That's curious. I didn't know you had sugar cane in Israel/Mid East. Where do all those sugar canes come from?

FA said...

Your post brought back great childhood memories of my grandfather's sugar cane plants. I spent many summer days running around with a freshly picked piece of sugar cane - enjoying the sweet succulence. Ahhh!