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The History Of Sugar



Saccharum officinarum - sugar cane

                       Introduction

Sugar is a common part of human life. From the time of its invention,refined sugar has been a part of our day-to-day life. Sugar was first produced from sugarcane plants in northern India sometime after the first century.The derivation of the word “sugar” is thought to have been from Sanskrit and Sanskrit literature from India, written between 1500 - 500 B.C,provides the first documentation of the cultivation of sugar cane and manufacture of sugar in the Bengal region of India. The Sanskrit name for a crudely made sugar substance was guda, meaning “to make into a ball or to conglomerate.”

The history of sugar

1. The extraction of sugar cane juice from the sugarcane plant; and, the subsequent domestication of the plant in tropical Southeast Asia sometime around 8,000 B.C.

2. The invention of manufacture of cane sugar granules from the sugarcane juice in India a little over two thousand years ago, followed by improvements in refining the crystal granules in India in the early centuries A.D.

3. The spread of cultivation and manufacture of cane sugar to the medieval Islamic world together with some improvements of production methods.

4. The spread of cultivation and manufacture of cane sugar to the West Indies and tropical parts of the Americas beginning in the 16th century, followed by more intensive improvements in production in the 17th through 19th centuries in that part of the world.

5. The development of beet sugar, high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners in the 19th and 20th centuries.Known worldwide through the end of the medieval period , sugar was very expensive  and was considered a "fine spice",but from about the year 1500, technological improvements and New World sources began turning it into a much cheaper bulk commodity.

Facts About Sugar

(1)Crusade chronicler William of Tyre, writing in the late 12th century, described sugar as "a most precious product, very necessary for the use and health of mankind".The first record of sugar in English is in the late 13th century.Contemporaries often compared the worth of sugar with valuable commodities including musk, pearls and spices.

(2)Sugarcane originated in tropical South Asia and Southeast Asia.Different species likely originated in different locations with S. barberi originating in
India and S. edule and S. officinarum coming from New Guinea.Originally, people chewed sugarcane raw to extract its sweetness.Indians discovered how to crystallize sugar during the Gupta dynasty around 350 AD.

(3)In South Asia, the Middle East and China,sugar became a staple of cooking and desserts.

(4)There are records of knowledge of sugar among the ancient Greeks and Romans,but only as an imported medicine,and not as a food. For example, the Greek physician
Dioscorides in the first century (AD) wrote: "There is a kind of coalesced honey called sakcharon [i.e. sugar] found in reeds in India and Eudaimon Arabia (i.e. Yemen)similar in consistency to salt and brittle enough to be broken between the teeth like salt. It is good dissolved in water for the intestines and stomach, and can be taken as a drink to help relieve a painful bladder and kidneys."

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