Last year, we wrote a post called 8 foods that grow in a surprising way, about the unexpected ways in which some common foods grow and where they originated from. It was quite popular. And it changed my life. No longer can I simply eat a meal… I now question everything on my plate; imagine the ways in which it might grow and where, and then research it thoroughly afterwards… I find I am eating alone a lot these days.
Anyway, I thought I’d do a follow-up, so you can also further regale your friends and family at meal times! Check back here each day this week for a new food!
Originates from Europe
So, where did you think sugar came from? Sugar cane? Well you would be right, but it was a surprise for me to learn that just over half of all sugar in the UK actually comes from sugar beet. I had never even heard of such a thing!
Sugar beet is a root vegetable that looks a bit like a parsnip, but has a sugar content of over 16% (and I thought a carrot was sweet!) These root vegetables are an ideal sugar source for us in Europe because we have the right climate for sugar beet to be farmed, whereas sugar cane needs a tropical climate… Something we can only wish for.
The beets are harvested towards the end of the year, when the sugar content is deemed to be highest. The processing plant is usually close to the farm, as to take the harvest a long way is costly; it’s quite a heavy, bulky crop! Once there, a sample of the crop is tested to see what the sugar content is, and the farmer is paid accordingly. The beets are sliced very thinly and sprayed with hot water and chemicals to clean the juice that comes out. The liquid is then filtered and boiled in a vacuum to create syrup. Crystals start to form in the syrup and additional “seeds” are thrown in to encourage further crystallisation. (These “seeds” are in fact, tiny sugar crystals.) The crystals are then separated from the syrup by being spun around in a centrifuge, and ta-dah! We have white sugar, as we know it! It really is amazing to think that white, sweet, sandy stuff comes from a root vegetable, isn’t it?
Photo credits: Sunbeam Free Photos Art & Fun and 028mdk09