Sustainable Sunday: Hawaiian Sugar & Lemonade

Packed in Hilo, grown in ?

Part of my Sustainable Sunday mission is helping you find locally made products. There are more and more products becoming available in everyday grocery stores, which makes it much more accessible for those that don’t have the time or resources to make it out to a farmer’s market each week.

Today I bring you a controversial “sustainable” product because I’d love to get your input on this issue. Hawaiian sugar: good or evil?

Hawaii has a long history with the sugar industry, dating all the way back to the very first Polynesian settlers who brought the plant to the islands in their canoes. Big business entered the scene in the early 1800s, creating huge sugar plantations all over the state. The sugar industry was a major job source for the people of Hawaii for generations. In fact, many people immigrated to Hawaii to work on the plantations from all over the world, contributing to the multi-cultural population we have today. In the early to mid 1900s, the sugar industry in Hawaii began to decline as companies moved their crops overseas seeking lower labor and land costs. This was a blessing and a curse as thousands lost their jobs while the land began to recover from years of environmental damage, including air and water pollution.

Today the only remaining sugar processing plants reside on the island of Maui. Monsanto, a giant agricultural conglomerate that basically drives the food industry and has come under fire for such issues as GMO plants, has been buying out Maui’s remaining sugar farms. If you know about some of the issues surrounding Monsanto, you know that this has been a touchy subject. Not to mention the heavy environmental toll sugar production has, particularly when it comes to water usage.

So what is a Hawaii resident to do when it comes to purchasing sugar? We have the option to buy locally grown and processed (NOT sustainable) sugar, for the double the price I might add. Or we have the option to buy shipped-in, organic varieties that are (probably) not owned by Monsanto but have a heavy environmental impact due to the importing logistics. There are of course cheap, table sugars shipped in from points beyond that are definitely produced by Monsanto and the corporate farming like.

It’s not a black and white issue. We have bills to pay and cakes to bake and not enough time to weigh the issues as we push heavy shopping carts along the aisles of the local KTA. What would you do?

In the meantime, make this lemonade and think it over. Lemons came from my backyard, ginger from the farmer’s market, and sugar from KTA.

Lemon Gingerade
serves 6-8

2-3 lemons
large piece of ginger, about the size of your hand
8 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 cups water

Using a food processor or similar contraption, pulse the ginger until is ground-up into pieces about the size of grains of rice. Place in a coffee filter and brew with 8 cups water in your coffee maker.

Squeeze lemons into a juice pitcher. You should have 11/2 – 2 cups of lemon juice.

Heat a small pot over medium heat and add 1 cup sugar and 2 cups water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves.

Allow the brewed ginger and sugar water to cool before adding to the juice pitcher with the lemon juice. At this point, taste to check the level of sweetness. If it is too sweet or strong, simply add more water. I like mine fairly mellow, so I’d probably add 4 more cups of water, but do your own thing. Serve over ice. Enjoy!

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One thought on “Sustainable Sunday: Hawaiian Sugar & Lemonade

  1. Hummmm….that’s a toughie. I prefer sustainable products, but not at a high cost. Being a college student, I have to pick and choose my splurges. Unfortunately, sustainable sugar is not on that list. It sucks! I am not going to lie.

    Like

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