Palm sugar is a sweetener derived from any variety of palm tree. Palm sugar is sometimes qualified by the type of palm, as in coconut palm sugar. While sugars from different palms may have slightly different compositions, all are processed similarly and can be used interchangeably.
The predominant sources of palm sugar are the palmyra, date, nipa, sugar and coconut palms.
The palmyra palm (Borassus spp.) is grown in Africa, Asia, and New Guinea. The tree has many uses, such as thatching, hatmaking, timber, use as a writing material, and in food products. Palm sugar is produced from sap ('toddy') from the flowers.
The date palm has two species, Phoenix dactylifera and P. sylvestris, and both are sources of palm sugar. P. dactylifera is common in the Mediterranean and Middle East. P. sylvestris is native to Asia, mainly Pakistan and India. Date palms are cultivated mainly for dates. Palm sugar is made from the tree's sap.
The nipa palm (Nypa fruticans) is native to the coastlines and tropical regions of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the only palm tree that grows in a watery mangrove biome. Only its leaves and flowers grow above water. Palm sugar is made from the sugar-rich sap.
The sugar palm (Arenga pinnata) is native to the coastal and tropical regions of Asia, mainly China and Indonesia. The sap used to produce palm sugar is known in India as gur and in Indonesia as gula aren.
The coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) yields coconut palm sugar from the sap of its flowers. It grows in coastal areas of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Major suppliers are Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines.