Organic Coconut Sugar
When you think of sugar you probably think of the white stuff in the jar on your kitchen counter, the dust on sour neon gummy worms, or even the reason we all should brush our teeth at least twice a day. This is the refined sugar of modernized foods. Enter coconut sugar, the unrefined sweetener that's rapidly gaining popularity all over the world.
Coconut sugar, which comes from the coconut palm or Cocos Nucifera, is a sugar derived from the sap of the flowers of the coconut tree. There are also no bleaching agents introduced in the production of this sugar, so the natural color remains. This is vastly different from white sugar which undergoes extensive bleaching to obtain that recognizably brilliant, uniform color. Coconut sugar is considered a raw sugar because it does not endure any of the heavy processing that white sugar goes through.
You may find it referred to as coco sugar, coconut palm sugar, coconut nectar, coco sap sugar, coconut blossom sugar, or coconut crystals. These are the same product, just named differently for marketing purposes.
Coconut sugar is harvested from the very same trees that produce coconuts, and so we need to delve into the history of coconuts a little bit. The coconut tree has an interesting history, laced with stories of strange people and the human experience. Coconuts are especially fascinating because their DNA provides a record for the colonization of the Americas as well as prehistoric trade routes. Early sailors would rely on their nutrient rich meat and milk for maintaining good health on their journeys far and wide, while the communities of people surrounded by the trees used them the same way, with the added benefit of using their husks for strong rope. The continued and even increased consumption of coconuts' many products only adds to the proof of the incredible value this fruit provides for humanity to this day.
The mutiny of the ship Bounty is said to have occurred because someone stole some coconuts from the ship's storage and Captain William Bligh was forced to punish them harshly. This lead to 1st Lieutenant Fletcher Christian to form an uprising against Bligh, citing the unfair treatment of the captain against his crewmen as the reason for the dispute. Christian woke Bligh in the middle of the night and then forced the Captain and seventeen others into a small boat with limited rations. Christian was left to man the Bounty with the rest of the crew, free to sail to Tahiti and begin a new life. Eventually he and his mutineers were captured and charged for their crimes. Luckily the eighteen men he forced onto the small lifeboat survived, thanks to Bligh's mastery of navigation. If you ask us, that whole story is simply coco nuts.
In January of 1878 coconuts hit the contiguous American shore quite literally. A ship, the Spanish Providencia, carrying about 20,000 coconuts wrecked just off the shore of Florida leaving the coconuts to scatter all over the place. The settlers of Florida took this opportunity to plant the coconuts around their homes and the seeds thrived. Eventually this area was named the Palm Beach county after the beautiful coconut palms that flourished there.
Traditionally and historically coconut sugar was a food additive of the people who planted and tended to the trees. Mostly it was gathered from trees that grew near homes- tall trees with lots of coconuts could harm people if the coconuts suddenly fell off. If a tree is being tapped for its sugar, it can no longer produce coconuts because all the food for the coconuts is in the very sap we derive the sugar from. This was advantageous for the communities the coconut trees provided for in two ways; physical safety as well as a great source of sugar.
In recent times, coconut sugar has been glorified for offering up a good alternative sugar for diabetics, because it is believed to be lower on the Glycemic Index. This has led to more mainstream popularity and more utilization of land for coconut trees to be grown and sugar to be harvested from.
Coconut trees have spread all over the world, thanks to their extremely buoyant seeds, the coconut. Due to their incredible capacity to spread themselves, as well as their close relationship with human travelers throughout history, it is difficult to pinpoint a place of origin for these multifaceted fruits. There are two very distinct probable sources for their origin. Pacific Ocean region and Indian Ocean region coconuts are genetically unique when compared to one another. The Indian Ocean region coconuts tend to be longer and less firm, while the Pacific Ocean region coconuts are shorter, rounder, and firmer. Of course, there are some coconuts that share qualities from both, but they are probably the result of people bringing the two different main types into the same area intentionally. The Pacific Ocean region coconut is the coconut that scientists are leaning toward as being the first coconuts, though they are still generally uncertain.
Despite what one may think is the obvious source of origin, coconut sugar does not come from coconuts at all. It is harvested in a process that can be boiled down to only a handful of steps, and it comes from the sap of the flower buds of the coconut palm tree. The spadix, or the middle part of the flower, is cut and the translucent sap begins to flow freely. The sap is traditionally collected in containers made from bamboo, and then transferred to woks or other similar cooking pans to evaporate the water. As the sap is about 80% water, this process takes some time. The thick substance left behind after the water has mostly evaporated is called "toddy." This substance is further reduced to become what you know as coconut sugar.
Coconut trees begin producing fruit, and thus sap from which the sugar comes, after roughly five to six years. Full bearing will occur at fifteen years of age, and can range from 1-100 coconuts, though 50 is considered average and acceptable. It takes a full year for the fruit to grow. The trees will continue to be prosperous until about the age of fifty. These older trees are the trees that have been locally used in the cultivation and production of coconut sugar, as they have been officially retired from coconut production because of their tendency to product less desirable fruits. Modernly, all flowering trees regardless of age have been used for harvesting the sugar.
Our Organic Coconut Sugar comes from Indonesia.
There are a few controversies that surround coconut sugar cultivation and use. With the resurgence of health food popularity, coconut sugar has been catapulted into the spotlight. This leads to the question, "is it healthy?" There is evidence of trace minerals in this sugar that add to the overall health of a human body, but the amount that you would have to consume to get any benefit from these is roughly 25 teaspoons of sugar in a single day. That is too much sugar for the body to process in twenty-four hours. The appropriate amount of sugar of any sort to ingest in that time frame is 6 teaspoons or less. Keeping all of this in mind, this sugar then is not much different from your average everyday table sugar. It has approximately the same calories as white sugar- 16 calories for a 4 gram serving of sugar. The real difference is the flavor that coconut sugar has; it is much more rich and distinguished than white sugar. One main source, a scientific article from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute in the Philippines says that the Glycemic Index Score of coconut sugar is 35, which indicates that it is low. This is countered by another scientific study done in Sydney Australia at the University of Sydney that indicates a score of 54 for the sugar. The highest score a food can receive is 55 for it to be considered low on the Glycemic Index. The glycemic index is important because it rates foods on how their sugars metabolize in the body and how quickly and dramatically they raise the blood glucose levels. Malfunctions in sugar processing in the body is called diabetes. While the score of 54 is still "low" it is much closer to the average white sugar, which scores a 65. Some people are adamant in their devotion to the idea that there are health benefits from this sugar. Similar to the Himalayan Pink Salt craze, coconut sugar is receiving wild attention for its supposed perks. There is not enough evidence to support either the positive or the negative, so use your own judgement.
Another serious question has been, "is it sustainable?" Some sources say yes, it is. These sources are often intimately involved with the industry however, and sponsor blogs to post articles that agree. They argue that half of the tree can be used to produce fruit while the other half can be used to harvest sugar, even though that potentially compromises the quality of both. Some sources say it is not sustainable, warning that the production of this sugar forces farmers who were previously growing "less profitable" coconut products to fold and harvest the sugar, which has a faster turnover but kills all other positive financial opportunity in the tree. They say that a tree cannot produce both sugar and fruit at the same time and that it is misleading to tell consumers otherwise. In the long run producing coconut sugar will cause problems in other parts of the coconut industry, including limiting other coconut products which have become staples in many diets all over the world. As the flower bud is tapped for its nutrient rich sap, the plant loses its ability to produce coconuts because the sap would be the source of nutrients for the fruit to thrive on. Without the nutrients, there is nothing for the fruit to grow with, and eventually the sap will run dry and the tree will die. Particularly problematic is the loss of agriculture and economy in the local regions where coconuts are grown. These trees contribute to both, giving local communities access to the fruit, milk, oil, etc. that they use in everyday life. Some places rely very heavily on coconut trees for their livelihoods and the loss of the trees to a quick buck might be detrimental.
A less serious question that comes up is, "is it paleo?" Sort of. Some people think it's Paleo because it is not processed. Some people think it isn't Paleo because it must be modified from its original form to become sugar. This controversy is interesting because the definition of what is paleo has changed a bit over the years as the diet has garnered some scientific interest. For example, high-fat meats used to be completely repugnant but now can be consumed if the animal was grass-fed. It is truly up to you to decide.
A very traditional dish made with coconut sugar is the Patoleo, made by the Goan Catholics. This dish is prepared by creating a parboiled rice paste which is then rubbed on turmeric leaves. The rice paste acts as a glue for the freshly grated coconut and coconut sugar that is added to it. Finally, the leaves are folded, sealed, and then steam cooked on a chondrõ, a traditional utensil. They are served hot, and are consumed only after the leaves have been removed, revealing a browned rice paste patty with a mild sweetness. This dish is often partnered with a hot drink, like tea or coffee.
You can use this sugar in many sweet treats. The lightly caramelized flavor of this sugar perfectly complements the chocolate in brownies or adds a nice flavor zing to red velvet cupcakes. Plenty of bakers even claim this bakes the same way as white sugar, so no need to modify any recipes you already have on hand that you'd like to use it in. Just remember that it is slightly coarser, and the flavor is more akin to light brown sugar. Be wary in using it for white cakes or in light colored frostings, as some bakers have mentioned a darkened color of the baked goods stemming from the sugar.
This sugar is a star player in Thai and Vietnamese cooking. Yellow curry with chicken and rice is a flavor rich Thai dish that features two tablespoons of coconut sugar in the standard recipe. There is an excellent vegetarian friendly recipe here for Vietnamese spinach wraps with a coconut sugar syrup sauce to dip them in. Coconut sugar makes another appearance in the Asian-inspired recipe Instant Pot General Tso's Style Chicken. This sugar also works well in deserts, like our Black Bean Brownies.
If you love fall and want to make something delicious that will stir up thoughts about long sleeves and walking through an orchard, look no further than baked apples. They require only a few ingredients- 3 apples, 3 tablespoons of coconut sugar divided, 2 tablespoons of coconut oil (have extra if you would like to grease your pan with it, too!), and two teaspoons of cinnamon. This easy recipe only requires a few steps and about 45 minutes of your time. First, preheat your oven to 400°F. Peel and core apples, then cut them in half. Grease your baking dish, add the apples. Mix together your remaining ingredients and apply to the apples. Cover them in foil, bake for 10-15 minutes, and then remove the foil for the remaining time. The apples are done when they are golden brown.
The flavor of coconut sugar is reminiscent of light brown sugar, with caramel-like undertones.
Coconut sugar can be replaced by or can replace table sugar in a 1:1 ratio.
Stevia is a sweeter, lower calorie alternative to coconut sugar, and cooks similarly.
Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
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