Sugar Cane

I harvested all our backyard sugarcane before the early, December freeze in Florida this year.  I grew our sugarcane in a round, mulched area where an oak tree died of old age (and serious riverbank erosion) and was completely removed.  

This photo was taken last summer. The canes were still young.

I plant our sugarcane from buds that I get from stem cuttings.   I plant them in the ground when it warms up in the spring and then I harvest the cane right before our first freeze in the winter. Sugarcane grows best in tropical climates where they can keep harvesting their stands over and over (sometimes up to 10 times) because it doesn’t freeze.  The new stalks that grow up are called ratoons.

The U.S. Sugar Corporation is suffering due to the extreme freezes that Florida has endured over the past two years.  They’re having trouble finding acceptable seed cane for next year’s crop.  U.S. Sugar farms 150,000 acres of sugarcane fields.

Newly planted Florida sugarcane. This photo shows what used to be the Everglades.

When I harvest our own sugar cane, I cut the sugar cane down at the base, just above the ground.  Then, I cut off the green tops.  I overwinter the little cane buds and sprouts in a big pot.  I grow them in a different spot in my yard each year.  This is our third year of enjoying the yummy cane. 

Some of our backyard sugarcane after being harvested. My kids eagerly wait for me to peel & cut it up for them to chew on.

Cane starts I collected to overwinter and use for my next crop.

The sugar cane harvest has taught me a skill that I’m quite proud of… using a machete like a Jamaican.  I’ve learned to peel the sugar cane swiftly and easily.  I’ve even started a machete collection.  A kitchen knife will not suffice for cutting sugarcane. 

Raw and peeled sugarcane.

Slicing the sugarcane into small pieces makes it easy to chew on. It's extremely juicy!

I tend to cut up huge bowls of sugarcane so there’s no arguing over it and everybody can have as much as they want. This is a photo of a small amount.

Sugarcane is in the grass family and is easy to grow as long as it has warm temperatures and full sun.  Click here to learn how to grow sugarcane from a store-bought piece.

I’ve recently learned that there are different types of sugarcane.  The type most home gardeners would grow is “chewing cane” which is very sweet and good to chew on.  The commercial sugar cane growers grow “crystal cane” which is better for processing the sugar crystals.  “Syrup cane” is grown for making syrup.  I found a great website from the University of Florida on the different canes. 

Are you wondering why someone would actually grow sugar when most of us are trying to stay away from it? I have always believed that raw sugarcane is very healthy because that’s what I was taught in Jamaica.  They chew it for good digestion and healthy teeth.  We always buy cut sugarcane and juice from vendors along the roadway in Jamaica.  For a sugarcane juice nutrition breakdown, click here.  I’ve never found anything comparable in Florida markets, so I grow my own.

We are hooked on growing our own backyard sugarcane for life.  My family has found great pleasure in cutting and chewing our sweet, sweet sugarcane.  I’m going to grow much more of it this year.  I’ll keep expanding my machete collection and I’m even looking into a household sugarcane extractor.

Sweet, sweet sugarcane.

Come grow with us!

3 Responses to “Sugar Cane”

  1. Oh Yes! There is nothing more refreshing than a glassfull of sugarcane juice! Its great that you are exposing your family to this gift , in this age of colas and fast food!

    We grow sugarcane in containers on terrace. 10 sticks in a three feet diameter drum full of rich composted soil. But of course our climate is very suitable for the same.

    Much love
    best wishes

  2. Hector Grant, Sr. Says:

    I enjoy your article. This is my third year planting chewing canes in my backyard. Here in San Antonio, Texas where the freeze came in around December, I’m learning to beat the freeze by reaping and preparing the seeds for the next year as well as cover the cane roots with a two feet heap of mulch. I’m having the largest and most numerous shoots this year, from stock that I saved last year and grew in my shed and transplanted in March. I grow the long jointed white cane, but I want to plant some ribbon cane that I so enjoyed in Jamaica.

  3. Thank you very much for the do-it-yourself information. I am definitly try to grow my own (in Spain!)

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