The Palmyra Palm Tree is the official tree of Tamil Nadu. It is highly respected in Tamil culture, where it is called as “Karpaha Veruksham”, meaning the celestial tree. All the parts of the tree have a utility value. Panaiveriyamman, named after panai, the Tamil name for Palyra Palm, is an ancient tree deity related to fertility, linked to this palm. This deity is also known as Taalavaasini, a name that further relates her to all types of palms. The Palmyra is also the symbol of Cambodia and the South Sulawesi province of Indonesia, where it is abundantly found.
From the sap of this sacred and highly valued Palmyra trees, comes the Palmyra Palm Jaggery, which is a natural sugar, holding a mine of health benefits within in. Also known as panankarupatti in Tamil Nadu, thati bellam in Telugu, gula melaka in malaysia and gula merah in Indonesia, The palmyra palm jaggery has a lot of cultural value in the country having been used for thousands of years. The largest producer and consumer of Palmyra Palm Jaggery is Maharashtra followed by Tamil Nadu and Andhra pradesh.
Refined Sugar is white in colour, solid, hard and crystalline, The palmyra palm jaggery is light to dark brown in colour, and softer than sugar having a smoky flavour and rich aroma compared to the white sugar.
Palmyra Palm Jaggery is superior to white sugar as it has iron, traces of minerals and fibre as well, in addition to Sucrose. It is digested slower than sugar and releases energy slowly. Also it has a series of health benefits in cleansing the lungs, stomach and respiratory system, preventing anemia. The Glycemic Index (GI) of the Palmyra Palm Jaggery is 41, which is lesser than that of sugar. The jaggery is not a substitute for sugar free products but can help prevent diabetes and to lose weight. It also helps in curing the PCOS problem for women.
Processing of white sugar involves char coal and in some cases animal bone char coal, where as PPJ is a simple boiling process until becoming harder enough, and doesn’t add up any external chemicals into the process.
Looking to all this, I decided to replace my daily refined sugar, with the Palmyra Palm Jaggery. I picked it off the shelf in Hypercity at a mall here. The package mentioned some of its benefits, and said it had no known side effects. However, it also laid out a warning not to add it to boiling milk/tea/coffee as it could curdle the milk. And it could be used in a 1:1 proportion compared to refined white sugar.
When I tried it, it did feel a little less sweet than white sugar, but no complains. For people who think this is brown sugar, it is not. This is crude, natural, raw sugar at its best. Brown sugar is refined sugar dipped back into molasses. This is not similar to Demerara sugar either. But, it is a healthy raw jaggery, and a good replaced for refined white sugar. Try it, believe it.