Blog Post by: The Outdated Mama.
I am planning to introduce a new series in my blog, called “Hidden Treasures”, where I will write about the indigenous food/herbs that are extremely high in nutritional value but never got the attention they deserve. This post is about Palm Sugar.
In the course of time, we are losing many things that we’ve been using for thousands of years to those that are marketed as “healthy” and “low-fat/calorie”. We have traded idlis and millet porridge for corn flakes and masala oats, coconut oil and ghee for “trans fat free” canola oil and corn oil, and a dangerous cocktail of chemicals for naturally occurring sugars and are happy about huge hospitals and “healthcare” cities emerging in all nooks and corners of the cities.
Many of us are aware that sugar consumption is one of the leading causes of obesity and big companies are capturing this segment of the “health conscious” market. The Global Artificial Sweetener market is worth billions of dollars and the big brands like Splenda, Equal and Nutrasweet are moving towards emerging markets like India and other countries in Middle East and South East Asia where the increasing diabetic and obese population provide a great market opportunity for their products. Millions and even billions of dollars are spent on the Research and Development of various cheap artificial sweeteners other than the saccharin and aspartame like sucralose and neotame, which are several thousand times sweeter than white sugar with the only claim of being low in calories. This only reminds of the famous image quote which was going rounds on social media some time back- “There are many people counting calories but not enough who count chemicals”.
Having said that sugar consumption is bad for health and opting for artificial sweetener is even worse, we are left with the question of what to use as a replacement for sugar. A lot of us will immediately think of honey, but let us remember that real, raw honey is very precious and comes after a lot of hard of work, so it is best to use them wisely, especially for medicinal/healing purposes and not as a sugar alternative. The answer is to find what was that original, natural sweetener/sugar which was replaced by white sugar, so the best way to find out is asking one’s parents/grandparents about what they used to sweeten their food.
As for me, it is the little-known super food called Karupatti/Panankarkandu, or Palm Sugar/Palm Candy. I am calling it a super food because it is not just a natural sugar, but a food that is packed with rare minerals and vitamins and extremely beneficial for our overall health.
Karupatti or Palm Sugar is not to be confused with coconut sugar and sugarcane jaggery. The Sugar Palm tree, or Panai maram, as it is called in Tamil is one of the native trees of my beautiful state of Tamil Nadu. The palm sugar is made from boiling the sweet sap collected from the inflorescence of the female Asian Palmyra Tree or the Sugar Palm tree (panai maram in Tamil). The crystallized form of palm sugar is called Palm Candy or Panankarkandu. Watch this video to know the beautiful process of palm sugar in the making.