Palm sugar is a natural sweetener made from the sap of palm trees.
When the palms are from 15 to 20 years old they commence flowering and it is only then that they yield the sweet sap from which palm sugar is made.
Palm neera tappers have to be extremely agile to shin up palm trees with only a circle of rope around their ankles for support. The sap flows when the inflorescence is tapped but first it must be beaten (gently) with a mallet for a couple of days. A small slice is taken off the end and a receptacle (usually an earthenware pot or gourd) hung close to the cut to collect the sap each night. The sap is known as 'sweet toddy' and for those lucky enough to be around when this is brought in, has a taste of ambrosia.
The fresh sweet palm neera is boiled down shortly after collection to make palm syrup and palm sugar. If this is not done, within a few hours the 'sweet toddy' ferments into a sour, potent brew called toddy, a very intoxicating drink. It is the 'cheap grog' of tropical lands and is not fit to drink the next day.
Palm sugar is a nutrient-rich, low-glycemic crystalline sweetener that looks, tastes, dissolves and melts almost exactly like sugar, but it's completely natural and unrefined. It's acquired from the flowers growing high on coconut trees, which are opened to collect their liquid flower nectar. This nectar is then air-dried to form a crystalline sugar that's naturally brown in color and naturally rich in a number of key vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, including potassium, zinc, iron, and vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6.