Gud (molasses) unbleached sugar obtained by thickening juices of date, sugarcane, palm, and coconut by boiling. According to market demand, it can be made hard or soft. In Bangladesh, the maximum amount of gud is made of cane juice and date juice. In some areas gud is made of palm juice and in khulna area it is also made of golpata or fanpalm juice.

Gud from date juice is made of sweet juice extracted from the soft top of the date tree. gachhis extract the juice from mid-November to mid-March by bleeding or slicing off a part of the soft skin of the topmost part of the trunk of date tree and then the gud is prepared by thickening the juice by boiling.

There was a time when sugar was also used to be made of date juice. Date trees were grown on a large scale in the jessore and faridpur areas, parts of Nadia district, Bashirhat, satkhira and 24-Parganas. These days gud made of date juice is available in almost all parts of Bangladesh.

The gud industry flourished in the 1940s in the districts of 24-Parganas, Midnapore and Faridpur and the annual production gud was about 100,000 tons. This was marketed throughout Bengal by boats, steamers, trains, and by road. The trunks of the date trees are used extensively for building houses in the villages and also as fuel at brick kilns and as a result, the trees are being felled indiscriminately. This has greatly brought down the production of gud.

Date trees are grown everywhere in the rural areas, especially near the houses, on road sides, around plots of land and at times, inside the plots. About 100 trees can be planted on a bigha (0.33 area) of land. Date trees start yielding fruit in 7 years and continue to do so for 30 or 40 years. Early in December the top of the trees are made ready for extracting juice. When bleeding is done sweet juice is collected overnight through a narrow bamboo pipe into a pitcher. The juice is collected next morning for boiling.

During the whole winter, date juice is collected in a cycle of 6 days. The first night's juice called jiran is the best in quality, sweetness and quantity. The second night's juice is called doket and falls in second category in quality and quantity. The third night's collection is called jhara, which is low in sweetness and quantity. The tree is given rest for the next 3 days after which another 6-day cycle begins.

An average healthy date tree yields about 6 litres of juice a day. If the nights are cold and the sky is clear, the juice will be very clear and sweet. The maximum yields of juice are available in December and January. Date juice has to be boiled quickly to avoid fermentation. The fermented juice is often drunk as liquor. Date juice is quite delicious as a drink. In some areas the fermented juice is given to the cattle to drink to make them sturdy.

Gud can be preserved and consumed for a long period of time. When heated further, gud takes the quality of country chocolate. The special dry cakes of khajura gud of Jessore and the hazari gud of Madaripur are famous. People from all parts of Bangladesh come to these places to buy gud. A large number of people of the lower and middle classes earn a living by extracting date juice, making gud and trading in gud. In rural Bangladesh a favourite sweet dish called payesh is made with date juice, gud and fine quality rice. A variety of winter cakes are also made with gud.

Sugarcane gud Before the sugar factories were established, sugarcane juice was widely used for making gud as alternative to sugar. Even now gud is made of its juice and used in various ways. Sugarcane when harvested from the field is made into pieces and fed into a pressing machine usually run by bulls. These days the sugar factories have automatic machines. The juice is cleaned and put into large boilers. When thickened it turns into dry cakes. Fine sugar is also made out of it. Several other varieties of gud are jhola (semi liquid), nali and chita.

Sugarcane is grown in Bangladesh in about 425,000 acres of land producing 7.5 million tons. Of this, 2.28 million tons are used for making gud. About 100,000 tons of jhola gud is produced in the country.

Palm gud is made by boiling the juice extracted by bleeding the cones of the palm trees. The fruit bearing cones yield more juice than the barren cones. Usually juice is extracted from mid-April to mid-June.

Long bamboos are used to climb to the top of the palm trees. The cones have to be bled with a sharp knife. The drops of juice fall into a pitcher. The bleeding is done twice a day and the juice has to be boiled quickly to prevent fermentation. The fermented juice is widely drunk as liquor. The palm gud is quite popular and a variety of cakes and delicious dishes are made with it.

The juice and gud obtained from date, sugarcane and palm trees are quite nutritious as they contain sugar, salt and vitamins. Gud is also used for making Ayurvedic medicines, liquors, and sweets. Also, it is used in a variety of other ways. [Md Zulfiker Ali Bhutto]