Suchar

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Suchar dicit arabs grecus zaccara, nos vero zucharum.


Apparatus:

Suchar | Sucar ms. e
zaccara B | zacara fp | zacchara j | zuchara ms. e | zazar AC
vero om. B fp
zucharum ABC | zuccarũ j | zuccarum p | zuc͞h͞ʒ f | zum ms. e


Translation:

Suchar says the Arab, the Greek says zaccara, and we call it zucharum {"sugar"}.


Commentary and botanical identification:

Wehr (1976): ﺳﻜﺮ /sukkar/ "sugar".

The sugarcane, Saccharum officinarum L. [[1]], was probably first domesticated in New Guinea some 10,000 years ago, but knowledge of its cultivation spread quickly into adjacent South-Asian areas with (sub-) tropical climates, with further species of the Saccharum genus [[2]] contributing to the improvement of the crop. The plant is easily propagated by stem cuttings or "setts” and after only one year the first harvest can be cut. After cutting, the plant produces new stems but with each cutting the yield is reduced. For many millennia sugar was extracted simply by chewing the raw cane, but by around 350 AD the crystallisation of sugar was discovered in India. Indian sailors exported sugar to China and other parts of Asia.

Sugar production was put on a new footing by Arab traders. In the Islamic conquests regions were invaded and annexed where sugar production had been established and the large expanse of the caliphate opened up vast new trading areas. Refinement procedures were copied from the Indians and improved, leading to manufacture on an industrial scale, thereby establishing sugar as a staple in most of the Islamic world by the turn of the first millennium. Thus sugar, that had been known in Europe as an exotic sweet substance during Antiquity and the early Middle Ages, became more accessible through trade with Islamic states, a fact that is reflected in most modern European languages by the adoption and subsequent adaptation of the Arabic word for the substance: ﺳﻜﺮ /sukkar/. The Arab origin of the word is still most clearly displayed in Spanish azúcar, Gallician azucre and Portuguese açúcar from the Arabic form preceded by the article: ﺍﻟﺴﻜﺮ /as-sukkar/. When Simon wrote his entries sugar was better known than in the previous periods, however, it was then still far from having the prominence it has in the modern world; this was only possible after its transplantation to the New World from the 15th c. AD onwards.

WilfGunther (talk) 28/06/2014

See also: Zacchar


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