As many do on the Hamakua Coast, we live on old sugar cane land. There’s cane still growing wild along the roads, but we prefer to use this purple sugar cane for it’s flavor, color, and juiciness.  Purple sugar cane, Saccharum officinarum, takes around 2 years to get big enough to harvest. We replant a few sections of each stalk when we cut it down. We harvested the stalks to the left in this photo, which were getting in the way of the path anyway.

Here’s a view of the press in use. We bought an electric press, but hand-crank ones are available.

We wash the stalks and cut the sugar cane into ~18″ lengths.  We split the fattest pieces to make it easier on the press.

Then put the cane through the press, one piece at a time.

You need a pretty large jar or pot to receive the juice, as it fills up fast!

The leftover stems, called bagasse, pile up quickly out the rear. Bagasse is used commercially to make paper products. We use it as a mulch, either in large pieces or broken down further in a chipper. Chipped up, it is also a good ingredient in IMO 4, the soil amendment promoted by Natural Farming (IMO stands for indigenous microorganisms).

The sugar cane is delicious drunk straight or used in beverages such as lemonade. It will get moldy after a few days though, even in the fridge. So, to preserve it I boil it down until it becomes a syrup. It’s necessary to skim off and discard the scum that develops – we use a small strainer.

After many hours it has boiled down to a few inches – now you really have to watch it carefully, as it can go from a liquid to a syrup to burnt in a flash at this stage!

The finished syrup is thick and a beautiful dark amber color. It has a rich taste, somewhat musky, close to molasses but not as strong.  It can also be used in baking as you would honey, maple syrup or molasses.