A mortar and pestle are two tools used with each other to grind and mix substances.
The mortar is a bowl-like vessel used to contain a substance. Mortars have smooth, rounded bottoms and wide mouths. The pestle is a stick used for pounding and grinding.
Mortar and pestles were traditionally used in pharmacies to crush various ingredients prior to preparing an extemporaneous prescription. The mortar and pestle is the most common icon associated with pharmacies. For pharmaceutical use, the mortar and the head of the pestle are usually made of porcelain, while the handle of the pestle is made of wood.
Mortars are also used in cooking to prepare ingredients, grinding fresh herbs into a powder form. Very large mortars are used with wooden mallets to prepare mochi. A regular sized Japanese mortar and pestle is called suribachi and surikogi. Granite mortars and pestles are used in Southeast Asia for grinding spices.
Native American tribes used mortars carved into the bedrock to grind acorns and other nuts. Many of the depressions can be found in their former territories.
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