Around 20,000 BC, people in the islands of the South Pacific were the first to discover sugar in giant grass (which we call sugar cane) that grew naturally in their area. However, India was the first country to extract natural cane juice to make the first crude sugar, which they called "gur" (loosely translated as "tasting sweet") in 500 BC. From India, the knowledge of making sugar spread westward into the Middle East, and then to Europe. Sugar was imported as both a luxury product and a medicine.
For hundreds of years, sugar was a highly prized and expensive "spice" that was used only in the homes of nobility and royalty. In 1493, the explorer Christopher Columbus took sugar cane to plant in the Caribbean where the crop grew well in the hot climate, heavy rainfall, and fertile soil. In the mid-1700's, a German scientist developed an alternative to sugar cane through the use of sugar beets. Since then, the sugar beet has become a main source of sugar in Europe and North America. Sugar beets are grown and processed to produce sugar in western Canada.