mortar and pestle

mortar and pestle 

“Mortar and pestle” are implements used to prepare ingredients or substances by crushing and grinding them into a fine paste or powder in kitchen, laboratory, and pharmacy. The mortar is a bowl. The pestle is a heavy, blunt club-shaped object. The substance to be ground, which may be wet or dry, is placed in the mortar, and the pestle is pressed and rotated onto it until the desired texture is achieved.

Good mortar and pestle-making materials must be hard enough to crush the substance rather than be worn away by it. The material cannot be brittle, or it will break during the pounding and grinding. It should also be smooth and hard, so that small bits of the mortar or pestle do not mix in with the ingredients. Non-porous materials are chosen that will not absorb or trap the substances being ground.

For pharmaceutical use, the mortar and the head of the pestle are usually made of porcelain, while the pestle handle is made of wood. This is known as a Wedgwood mortar and pestle and originated in 1759. Other materials include stone, wood (highly absorbent), bamboo, iron, steel, brass, and basalt. Mortar and pestle sets made from the wood of old grape vines are good for grinding salt and pepper at the dinner table.

Scientists have found ancient mortars and pestles in Southwest Asia that date back to approximately 35000 BC. The antiquity of these tools is documented in early writing, such as the Egyptian Ebers Papyrus of ~1550 BCE, the oldest preserved piece of medical literature.

The word “mortar” derives from classical Latin mortarium, meaning, among other usages, “receptacle for pounding.” The Latin pistillum, meaning “pounder,” led to English pestle. The Roman poet, Juvenal, applied both mortarium and pistillum to articles used in the preparation of drugs, reflecting the early use of the mortar and pestle as a symbol of a pharmacist or apothecary.

Mortars are used in cooking to prepare such items as guacamole, hummus and pesto (which derives its name from the pestle), as well as grinding spices into powder. Some Native American nations use mortars carved into the bedrock to grind acorns and other nuts. Many such depressions can be found in their territories.

Granite mortars and pestles are used in Southeast Asia, as well as Pakistan and India.  Large mortars and pestles are commonly used in developing countries to husk grain. These are usually made of wood, and operated by one or more persons.

Any tool that contributes to guacamole and hummus is the tool for me!

  One thought on “mortar and pestle

  1. Leanne Taylor
    May 30, 2021 at 10:40 am

    Oh, yes! I’m in agreement about the guacamole and hummus!

    Fascinating that the mortar and pestle date back that far.

    Thank you for another very interesting entry, O Sleuth!

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 30, 2021 at 11:17 am

      You’re welcome! And I enjoy learning all this stuff, too.


  2. Pat Steward
    May 30, 2021 at 1:32 pm

    Fantastic Irene. I love History stuff.

    Love P >


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