ETYM Old Eng. sugre, French sucre (cf. Italian zucchero, Spanish azúcar), from Arabic sukkar, assukkar, from Skr. çarkarâ sugar, gravel; cf. Per. shakar. Related to Saccharine, Sucrose.
Any sweet, soluble crystalline carbohydrate, either a monosaccharide or disaccharide. The major sources are tropical sugar cane Saccharum officinarum, which accounts for about two-thirds of production, and temperate sugar beet Beta vulgaris. Honey also contains sugars.
Cane, which is a grass, usually yields over 9 tons of sugar per acre per year; sugar beet rarely exceeds 3 tons per acre per year. Beet sugar is more expensive to produce, but is often subsidized by European governments wishing to support the agricultural sector and avoid over-dependence on the volatile world sugar market. Minor quantities of sugar are produced from the sap of maple trees, and from sorghum and date palms. Sugar is a major source of energy, but also contributes to tooth decay.
Monosaccharides are the simplest sugars; examples include fructose and glucose, both obtained from fruit and honey. Disaccharides are sugars which, when hydrolyzed by dilute acids, give two of either the same or different simple sugars (monosaccharides). Examples are sucrose from sugar cane and sugar beet, which breaks down to glucose and fructose. Polysaccharidees, such as starch and cellulose, hydrolyze to many simple sugars. Sucrose is produced commercially from sugar cane by crushing the stem. Molasses is the uncrystallized syrup drained from the crystallized sugar, then refined by stages to “pure” whiteness. Fermented unrefined molasses produces rum. Highly refined forms of sugar include cube, granulated, confectioner’s, and icing.
Sugar is also produced from sugar beet; the pulp remaining from the process is used as cattle feed. The fibrous residue of sugar cane, called bagasse, is used in the manufacture of paper, cattle feed, and fuel; and new types of cane are being bred for low sugar and high fuel production.
A white crystalline carbohydrate used as a sweetener and preservative; SYN. refined sugar.
History c. 700 bc sugar first refined in India.
C. 650 bc first bee husbandry in the Mediterranean and Mexico, for honey.
C. 1300 sugar industry spread from Arab countries to Spain (Italy main trader) and to Latin America by the Spanish (16th–17th centuries).
1319 first record of sugar in England.
18th century rise in European consumption.
Late 18th century.
Margraf isolated sugar in beet.
1885 beet and cane sugar trade.