Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend
On the cane
Saccharum officinarum, commonly called sugar cane, is a perennial grass and one of four types used in sugar production. It grows in clumps up to 16 feet high and produces the largest ratio of calories to cultivation area of any plant. Cultivations of it began 8,000 years ago in New Guinea, where the stems were chewed on to get to the sweet juice the plant produces. The first refined versions of it were created in India over 2,000 years ago. Besides sugar, the plant can also be used to create ethanol, and the byproducts are used to feed livestock.