The mortar and pestle has been used since ancient times to prepare ingredients by crushing them into a fine paste or powder. In the 15th century, the mortar and pestle was used by Italian pharmacists. In Mexico, it appears as early as 6,000 years ago with the discovery of corn!
The mortar is a bowl made of hard wood, marble, pottery or stone. The pestle is the bat shaped object used to grind substances within the mortar. The basic idea is to place a substance inside the bowl/mortar, place the pestle on top and apply downward pressure. Then you grind with a circular motion to crush the substance against the bowl.
This grinding process releases oils and the flavor essence of whatever substance you are crushing like no other process in the world. In fact, ingredients crushed with a mortar and pestle are more flavorful than those pulverized in a food processor! That is why the mortar and pestle has stood the test of time, and is still used in kitchens today.
Here’s just a little caution though: To maintain your mortar and pestle, make certain only to wash with warm water and a stiff brush. Detergents can be absorbed into the mortar and pestle and taint food.