The most genuine sweetener in Axarquía
Sugar cane was, until the 1980s, the most important crops in the province of Málaga. Popularly known as sweet cane, sugar was extracted from it in the several sugar mills there were in the coast of Málaga. It was grown next to the coast and, because of that, its production represented a problem to town-planning interests. When Spain joined the European Union, its crop was practically erradicated, excedpt from some locations in Axarquía and the Tropical Coast of Granada. Besides the sugar, this plan offers some other products, like sugar cane juice and cane honey. The first one is barely used today, except for crafting artisanal beer in Axarquía. The second one, however, is one of the msot famous products in this eastern region. Today, cane honey is linked to the village of Frigiliana.
In fact, they continue to produce this honey in the only factory specialised in this product in Europe. They refuse to stop making the sweeter cane, which was introduced more than a thousand years ago by the Arabs.
One of the reasons why this product survives is its versatility in the kitchen. In fact, cane honey is used in the cuisin from Axarquía and the rest of the province. It can be used as a dressing for cod omelettes, fried aubergine and even meat dishes. It is used to create a wide variety of desserts (puddings, yogurts) or even drinks and smoothies. It is used in pastry making to use arropía, torrijas, sponge cakes, pies, sweet potato preserves, borrachuelos, flor de piñoneta or cookies, among other sweets. Since 2013, the Day of the Honey Cane is celebrated in Frigiliana, a celebration that wants to boost the value of this product. In order to do that, there are cane juice and cane honey tastings, guided visits to the sugar mill and showings of the treataments done to the sugar cane.
Apart from this honey, Málaga is also a big producer of honey. Almost in every region, there are companies that work in the beekeeping industry. The most important one is Colmenar, a village that even has the Museum of Honey. Besides thousandflower honey, there are more varieties like the avocado, rosemary, thyme, orange blossom, chestnut tree or forest variety.
The production of cane honey is highly linked to the history of Axarquía. In fact, there were almost 15.000 hectares of their plantation in this area. Today there is almost no presence of this crip, except for some lands located in the village of Vélez. The only cane sugar mill in Europe, located in Frigiliana, is still working and distributes the product too.
Sugar cane originally comes from Southeast Asia but it adapted well to the climate conditions of Axarquía. It was the Arabs, in the ancient Al-Ándalus, who took it to the Iberian Peninsula. From the 1930s to the 1950s, it was the main source of income in villages like Nerja, Torrox, Vélez-Málaga or Frigiliana, among others, where there are still some sugar mills that were used to juice the sugar canes.
Cane honey, taking in moderation as any other type of sugar, is a complex and nutrient rich food. Some of its nutrients are glucose, sucrose, proteins, calcium salt, ferric salt, vitamin b and other minerals. They obtain the honey by using artisanal procedures that results in the perfect concentration of sugar cane juice, once all of their impurities have been removed. With this method, the honey keeps all the benefits that the sugar cane plant has.