Indian Beginnings

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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The history of candy begins in India, where sugar was first refined from cane sap. By 100 c.e. ′sarkarā (“pebbles”) was the Sanskrit word for hard sugar crystals drained from syrup. At this stage, khaņda or khaņdaka (“broken piece”) meant a cruder product, soft brown crystalline sugar. These words would travel to Europe by way of Persian (shakar, qand) and Arabic (sukkar, qand). See sugar.

It took centuries for “candy” to come to mean a product made from sugar. The earliest candy was, in effect, ′sarkarā allowed to develop particularly large crystals. In Arabic it was called sukkar al-nabāt (“plant sugar”) because the crystals “grow” in dense syrup as it cools. This type of large crystal is referred to as rock candy. Although no longer a very important category today, it still appears at the end of a wooden stick for stirring cocktails. And it is still beloved by children, until they discover candies that are not literally rock-hard crystals.