chewing gum


chewing gum
/chooh"ing/
a sweetened and flavored preparation for chewing, usually made of chicle.
[1755-65, Amer.]

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Sweetened product made from chicle and similar resilient substances that is chewed for its flavour.

Tree resins have been chewed as teeth cleaners and breath fresheners since ancient times. The latex (called chicle) of the Central American sapodilla tree was first used to mass-produce chewing gum in the 19th century; its plasticity, insolubility in water, and ability to hold a flavour made it an ideal chewing-gum base. After World War II other gums and synthetic rubbers came to replace chicle.

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      sweetened product made from chicle and similar resilient substances and chewed for its flavour. Peoples of the Mediterranean have since antiquity chewed the sweet resin of the mastic tree (so named after the custom) as a tooth cleanser and breath freshener. New England colonists borrowed from the Indians the custom of chewing aromatic and astringent spruce resin for the same purposes. Similarly, for centuries inhabitants of the Yucatán Peninsula have chewed the latex, called chicle, of the sapodilla tree (Achras zapota), an evergreen that flourishes in the rain forests of the region.

      In the 19th century, chicle was heralded by industrial developers as an equivalent to rubber. Although attempts to vulcanize chicle were unsuccessful, it was discovered in the process that the desiccated resin was insoluble in water and extremely plastic, and that it was able to retain flavour. Thus, although unsuitable as a rubber substitute, chicle did invite exploitation in the latter half of the 19th century as a replacement for the sweetened paraffin that had itself outmoded the less refined spruce resin for chewing.

      To begin the gum manufacturing process, blocks of gathered, hardened chicle are broken up, then screened and strained before mixed with other gum bases, sweeteners, and flavourings during cooking. The blended mass is passed between rollers onto a belt for cooling, after which it is sugared, cut, wrapped, and packaged.

      After World War II various waxes, plastics, and synthetic rubber virtually replaced chicle in chewing gum manufacture. Artificially sweetened chewing gum found a wide market in the United States in the late 20th century, while mint remained the favourite among a wide variety of flavours.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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