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Sugarcane Juice (caldo de cana)

Maria do Carmo Andrade
Librarian at the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation
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Sugarcane juice, or garapa, is a drink directly extracted from sugarcane through a relatively simple grinding process, especially when the contraption for the grinding of the cane began to utilize electricity. First, you scrape the bark of the cane to eliminate the dirt, then the cane is pressed or squeezed and the juice falls into a jar, ready to be consumed. Thus, in the Northeast region, there’s saying that goes: “Right on time, just like sugarcane juice”, referring to the speed with which something is done.

The origin of the sugarcane juice consumption is linked to the exploration of the sugarcane and to the process of production of cachaça, which has been improved since the discovery of the sugarcane wine, known as garapa azeda, or bitter garapa, following the arrival of the sugarcane in Brazil, in the 16th century. The slaves were the first to take the drink that was on the rapadura pans, then only fermented. To illustrate this, it is worth highlighting that in sugar mills the sugarcane juice is the raw material in the making of sugar, ethanol and cachaça. The industrial waste of the distillation for the making of alcohol and cachaça results in molasses or mel de furo.

The liquid (juice) has great nutritional value. Today, in globalized times, there are those who consider the sugarcane juice as a biofuel for the human body. Already, there are scientific researches trying to prove the efficiency of sugarcane juice in physical performance and in the recovery of muscle mass in athletes. Researches at Unicamp are planning to transform sugarcane juice in a powder that could be diluted in water.

Sugarcane juice is basically made up of water and saccharose, and it retains all the nutrients from sugarcane: minerals, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, B and C vitamins; it also contains glucose, fructose, proteins, starch, waxes, fatty acids, colorings, phenolic acid and flavonoids. The consumption of 250ml of juice equals the ingestion of 40mg of phenolics, thus being an important source of these antioxidant compounds in the diet. However, the protein content of sugarcane juice is extremely low, which makes it a non-balanced food. There is great variety in colors and types of sugarcane. Its colors are purple, white, yellow, green, red, and its types are canina [canine], rainha [queen], tiririca, ubá cristalina [crystalline ubá] , caiana, among others. The caiana type is the most used for the extraction of juice.  

Sugarcane juice is greatly appreciated in Brazil, especially in Zona da Mata, where the sugarcane culture has always been dominant, not only because of its flavor, but also because of its great energy value. Among the inhabitants of the countryside, it is customary to drink sugarcane juice while eating sweet bread, a tasty and accessible sandwich; others like to add some lemon drops to it. There are those who appreciate the juice even after the beginning of the fermenting process, when it acquires a flavor similar to that of aluá, a fermented drink typical of the Brazilian “festas juninas” [June Festival], similar to quentão, in the Brazilian Southeast.

With the expansion of the consumption of sugarcane juice, many types and models of milling have appeared, although all models are in use, from the most primitive to the most modern. After all, the milling technique is basically the same: the cane enters through one side and the juice goes out through another. These millers or contraptions are present not only in the countryside and in rural areas, but also in capitals. Sugarcane juice has already “conquered the world” for quite some time now, and has become a sensation even in China. 

The juice is sold in carts, stands, public markets, trailers, cafeterias. The possibilities of serving the juice have also been expanded. One can drink sugarcane juice under the name of “energy drink” or “jacaré”, which is nothing more than sugarcane juice, kale, and lemon, and also drink it with ginger and other combinations. Nowadays the juice can come with pastry and even strudel (a cake made of pastry dough, filled with apple, raisins, breadcrumbs, sugar, butter and cinnamon).

According to writer, researcher and folklorist Mario Souto Maior, the inhabitants of the countryside and of the rural areas, generally with no access to scientific medicine, try to develop it empirically, i.e., using their own experiences to care for illnesses. And it is inevitable: sugarcane juice is utilized in the treatment of some illnesses, which popular wisdom indicated or counter indicated. Among others, we list the following:

1.     AFTER GIVING BIRTH

During this period, sugarcane juice can cause hemorrhages. However, after the rest, the juice is good to help in the production of breast milk.

2.     BEDWETTING

A child must not drink sugarcane juice before sleep, because they will develop the habit of urinating on bed.

3.     HEMORRHOIDS

When one has problems with hemorrhoids, one must not drink sugarcane juice, because it would worsen the situation.

4.     CLEAN BLOOD

Sugarcane juice, drank in the morning and before shower, can clean the blood from pereba, scab, furuncles.

5.     CICATRIZATION

When a cut happens, one must use wool drenched in sugarcane juice, which acts as hemostatic and healing.

6.     WATER SUBSTITUTION

In Sertão, when horses are going on a long walk, the water they would take after eating their rations (corn) is substituted by sugarcane juice. Thus they become stronger to stand the journey.

7.     SICKNESS

Sugarcane juice is used to cause burping, when one is sick. 

Recife, 30 August 2011.

SOURCES CONSULTED:

CALDO de Cana (imagem neste texto). Available at:<http://mdemulher.abril.com.br/blogs/karlinha/saude/vai-malhar-tome-caldo-de-cana/> . Accessed: 18 out. 2011.

CRUZ, G. L. Cana-de-açúcar Saccharum Officinarum, Lineu Família das Gramíneas. In: ______. Livro verde das plantas medicinais e industriais do Brasil. Belo Horizonte: [s. n.], 1965. v. 2, p. 216-220.

PODEROSO, saudável e natural. Available at: <http://olharglobal.net/2008/09/04/caldo-de-cana-energtico-poderoso-saudvel-e-natural/>. Acesso em: 31 ago. 2011.

SOUTO MAIOR, Mário. Gostosuras populares da cana e do açúcar. Brasil Açucareiro, Rio de Janeiro, ano 41, v. 82, n. 2, p. 32-34, ago. 1973. Publicado também em: Comes e bebes do Nordeste. 3. ed. Recife: Fundaj, Ed. Massangana, 1985. p. 46.

HOW TO CITE THIS TEXT:

Source : ANDRADE, Maria do Carmo. Caldo de Cana. Pesquisa Escolar online, Joaquim Nabuco Foudantion, Recife. Available at: <
http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar_en>. Accessed: day  month  yaer. Example.: 9 August. 2011.

 

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